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Reddit turns 15: The dramatic moments that shaped the internet's front page

Mashable 23 Jun 2020 09:30
Make a wish... for fewer racists?
Make a wish... for fewer racists?
Image: BoB Al-GREENe / Mashable

It may seem like it has been part of the internet landscape forever, but Reddit — which turns 15 Tuesday — is a mere teenager. An uncoordinated, gangly teenager that still struggles with its size, its group of friends, and truly damning content in its browser history. 

On its best days, Reddit in 2020 is exactly what its founders wished for in 2005: It's the front page of the internet. While Facebook and Twitter have us stuck in silos, unfollowing those we don't agree with, Reddit's up-and-down votes are truly global. On any given day, the most upvoted stories are a mix of the inspiring, the edifying and, of course, cute animals. News discussions are generally thoughtful and filter-bubble-free. Popular subreddits have helped users out of debt (r/personalfinance), taught them to build anything (r/DIY), and fostered self-awareness in society's most self-centered people (r/amItheasshole).

But then there are its worst days. Oh boy, its worst days. Thanks to an early commitment to extreme free speech and a teenager's love of trolling, Reddit has opened itself up over the years to accusations of harboring pedophiles, misogynists, and racists. It was the source of some of the worst online vigilantism in internet history and may well have helped elect the worst president of the modern era. Attempts to enforce confusing rules have not erased its nastiest rabbit holes. On the cusp of its 15th birthday, Reddit's statement of support for Black Lives Matter led to a former CEO damning current management as hypocrites, while a co-founder resigned to make way for a Black board member.  

It's a tale as old as tech. One founder is the awkward programming genius with a mischievous, unfiltered sense of humor (see also: Steve Wozniak), and one is the smooth, charismatic business guy who knows all the right things to say and becomes the face of the company (see also: Steve Jobs). In Reddit's case, those roles were filled by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, respectively. And their meeting would not have happened but for the fact that they both selected "old dorms" on their University of Virginia application forms. 

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