Reddit co-founder: ‘Hashtags are the greatest farce foisted on us’

9 Nov 2016

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in Lisbon today. Image: Web Summit

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian labelled hashtags as useless for bringing good content to the surface and says Reddit relies on upvotes and sophisticated algorithms instead.

“We are happy with upvotes – the goal is to get people in front of content that means something to them, dip into the zeitgeist of communities they care about,” Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said at the Web Summit in Lisbon during a panel on social media content.

Asked if the upvote on Reddit is the new Like, Ohanian said it is about surfacing the best content.

“We are in an interesting space with Reddit. There is a hotness algorithm – upvotes versus downvotes and what we are honing in on is the fact that the second screen is happening on Reddit.”

Downvoting hashtags

Ohanian dismissed hashtags, a preferred method on Twitter, as a way of surfacing content. “Hashtags are the greatest farce foisted on us. No one watches them during events.

He said communities on Reddit are going to the content that bubbles to the top through algorithms and upvotes.

“This is where communites are going before, during and after because the signal to noise ratio is good. We see the top threads happening with the best discussions.”

Ohanian said Reddit’s approach is a hybrid of open source and algorithms that are constantly being tweaked.

“We’ve used algorithms from jump,” he said.

He said algorithms are constantly tweaked to prevent people from gaming the system.

“We are 100pc a platform and have to think that way. All our product iterations are designed to enable the community, especially in the wake of everything in the past year. We have to think differently about how to feed media diets.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years