Reddit CEO and founder Steve Huffman says that he wants to show casual users of the site that “the front page of the internet” is more than just a front page.
At the Transformers conference hosted by The Washington Post on Wednesday, Huffman said that users of the site fall into two categories: “supremely loyal” redditors (including some who go so far as to tattoo the site’s logo on themselves) and the much larger category of casual front-page browsers. Huffman’s “plan for internet domination” involves ushering the latter group deeper into the Reddit universe.
Reddit’s front page is just the tip of the iceberg, with more than 800,000 communities (called subreddits) teeming below the surface. “The big challenge we have right now is how do we make the fact that Reddit is incredibly broad and incredibly deep obvious to our transient users?” Huffman said.
It’s not the first time the Reddit CEO — who returned to the site last summer following a mutiny by moderators after the unexplained firing of a popular Reddit employee Victoria Taylor — has mentioned his intention to change the way users are introduced to the site. “We’ve got our sights on the front page algorithm in general. It can be vastly improved,” he wrote in January, responding to a question about whether Reddit was considering updating the default subreddits that users are automatically subscribed to when they join. He also said that he wasn’t a “fan” of defaults because they make it difficult for new communities to emerge.
While Huffman said he thinks a lot about how to keep the site welcoming to all, he says there are no plans to change the site’s model of self-policing, where volunteer moderators have control over their communities. “[Taking moderation in-house] is something we think about, but we would never do,” he said Wednesday, adding that subverting Reddit’s laissez-faire structure might ruin the culture of self-expression and openness that differentiates the site from social platforms like Facebook.
Instead, the new CEO has focused on banning and quarantining the subreddits and “bad actors” that have given Reddit a reputation for being a bastion of harassment and racism online. “We believe that people are fundamentally good,” he told the audience at the Washington Post conference. It’s an attitude that the parts of Reddit that Huffman is trying to amplify — like subreddits where users practice coming out for the first time, or a community where strangers lend each other money — backs up.