Category: Reddit

We’ve (Still) Got Your Back – EFF ranks Reddit its “sole all-star” company in 2019 transparency rankings

Every year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) publishes its annual Who Has Your Back? report on transparency practices across platforms. Last year, we were proud to be among the top-ranked companies, with 4 out of 5 stars. But we wanted that last star. Bad. So a coalition of teams inside Reddit got together to determine how we could do better for this year. And we are delighted to share that the new 2019 ratings came out this week with Reddit in the top spot! Furthermore, not only did we earn all 6 out of 6 stars, but we were the only company to do so!This accomplishment represents the culmination of many people’s work, some of which you may have noticed in the past few months. You might have seen, for example, our newly-expanded Transparency Report, which for the first time this year provided statistics not just on government data and takedown requests, but also information on content that we as Reddit admins removed for sitewide-rule violations. We also included for the first time stats on appeals for these takedowns, earning us that coveted sixth star.

While disclosing these figures might not seem like a big deal, tracking and gathering all of that information is a complex job, and it takes a lot of our small team’s effort to do it. We’re proud that we were able to pull it off, even when companies with literally dozens of times as many employees as us couldn’t.

Values and practices that privilege transparency are important to us, and we know they’re important to Redditors, too. That’s why we made these improvements a priority, and we’ll continue to look for ways to be more transparent with you whenever we can. We’re already examining our practices for next year, in the hopes that we can continue to exemplify practices that set a standard for the industry and are respectful of our users. To that end, if you have some ideas on what statistics you’d like to see in future transparency reports, let us know in the comments!

Finally, a word of thanks to the EFF. Reports like these help pull companies like us (and the entire industry) along in our practices, and we know they’re complex to put together. We’re grateful for the work EFF does, not only on this issue, but on a whole host of issues critical to the open internet. Check out their work on CDA 230, or how they helped us protect this Redditor’s First Amendment right to anonymous speech– legal pushback which, by the way, was made possible by Reddit’s transparency notification processes on government data requests….so yeah, this stuff matters.

On June 11, the Senate will Discuss Net Neutrality. Call Your Senator, then Watch the Proceedings LIVE.

Hey, Redditors! Since we last checked in with you on Net Neutrality, the House of Representatives passed the Save the Internet Act to restore strong Net Neutrality rules. As a reminder, this bill includes consumer protections that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling content, as well as from the anticompetitive practice of prioritizing certain content in exchange for payment. These protections are essential, as evidence shows that ISPs have been taking advantage of their absence to execute some unfair practices since the repeal, documented here.

In light of this disappointing-but-unsurprising shadiness, we’ve continued to beat the drum on why Net Neutrality is important to allowing platforms like Reddit (as well as all manner of startups) to compete on an even playing field with industry giants. u/spez even teamed up recently with FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel (u/Official_FCC_CJR) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to emphasize Net Neutrality’s continued urgency.

What’s happening now, and what can you do?

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by u/SenatorEdMarkey, is now poised to be raised on the floor on (likely) June 11– timed exactly one year after the FCC officially retracted the Net Neutrality rules that were previously in place. You’ll be able to watch the proceedings live here.

But in order for this effort to have a chance, our Senators need to know that this is something their constituents care about. While the polling is bipartisan and overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, polling doesn’t speak as loudly as constituent phone calls. In the words of Rep. Eshoo, “Advocates need to lean in…The Congress is not a proactive institution. Congress moves when it’s pushed from the outside.”

You can let your Senator know that you care about Net Neutrality by giving their office a call before the 11th. You can look yours up and find their phone number here (you have two of them, so be sure to call both!). You might also want to check and see how they fared in this incidence of spontaneous Reddit activism from late 2017 (unfortunately, word from his staff is that Senator Dog will not be taking part in Tuesday’s floor proceedings due to his preoccupation with impending Universal Basic Tennis Ball legislation).

Finally, Fight For the Future is going to run a live stream discussion of their own on June 11th to allow small business owners, celebrities, creators, and normal internet users to express for themselves why Net Neutrality is important. If you’d like to share your thoughts (and maybe have them read live on the air by someone fancy), you can submit them here.

Reddit Welcomes Porter Gale to Board of Directors

Today, we are excited to welcome Porter Gale to the Reddit Board of Directors. Gale currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer at Personal Capital and is an established executive, advisor, and author with more than 20 years of direct-to-consumer marketing for brands spanning AdTech, FinTech, Gaming, CPG, and e-commerce industries.

Previously, Gale was Vice President of Marketing at Virgin America and managed its Brand & Digital, Loyalty and In-Flight content teams. She also helped build and grow Globality, an AI-driven SaaS platform and marketplace, as Marketing General Manager and interim CMO. She’s widely recognized for her marketing leadership, having been named on AdAge’s Digital Hotlist, an iMedia Top 25-Digital Marketer, and receiving the Changing The Game Award by AWNY.  

“Porter has extensive experience building bold, fast-growing companies that put their customers and users first”, said Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit. “We look forward to the insights and experience Porter will bring to the board, as Reddit continues to pursue its mission of bringing community and belonging to everyone.”

“Reddit’s network of passionate communities offers people social substance that is entirely unique from anywhere else on the internet. So much of what people find online today is self-promotion or driven by influence, when what people want and need is authenticity and this substantive social experience,” said Gale. “This is why I was drawn to Reddit and why I’m eager to be part of the company’s journey.”

This appointment follows several major milestones for the company. In February, the company closed a 300M Series D round to fuel its mission to bring community and belonging to everyone. This year, Reddit has also opened a new office in Dublin, and expanded hiring in New York to continue growth beyond its San Francisco headquarters and offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. The company has also made a number of key leadership hires including Time-Veteran Jen Wong as Chief Operating Officer and Shariq Rizvi, as Vice President of Ads Product and Engineering. All of this has fueled product momentum, beginning with the site’s redesign in 2018 and encompassing several new ad products.

Celebrating Game of Thrones on Reddit – ****BEWARE: SPOILERS MAY LIE AHEAD****

Celebrating Game of Thrones on Reddit – ****BEWARE: SPOILERS MAY LIE AHEAD****

For the past several weeks, Reddit HQ has been buzzing with excitement about the final season of Game of Thrones, with some teams even hanging their favorite house sigils over their desks. Each Monday, staff can be spotted darting to quiet corners, whispering watercooler banter, dire not to utter a spoiler too loudly. Now, that would be a shame.

This is an excitement we share with you, the Reddit community. And for good reason: Game of Thrones has been king of our vast realms of television fandom communities since the show’s beginnings.  Whether you’re seeking in-depth episode discussions for any season, conversations about the written text or checking out the folks with the dankest of GoT memes, we’ve got a community for any Game of Thrones fan to call home.

r/GameofThrones Community

With over two million subscribers, r/gameofthrones has been the largest TV community on Reddit seven out of the last eight years. Since 2011, redditors have flocked to this community to discuss out-of-the-box fan theories, the latest mind-bending plotlines and their favorite show moments. This year has been no different, where we’ve seen over 1.5M comments within the community around the show’s last season.

The r/gameofthrones community has always been vocal about their favorite—and sometimes least favorite—characters on the show. To celebrate the long-awaited series finale, we partnered with the community to give redditors an opportunity to show that fan passion in the spirit of the final season’s ultimate battle: the fight to win the Iron Throne.

The Throne Pool

To kick off season eight, Reddit launched a Throne Pool experience with the r/gameofthrones community, where redditors were encouraged to “bend the knee” for the character they wanted to see take the Iron Throne at the end of the season.

The king was really one of a kind… RIP my king you will be remembered from NKWinsTheThrone

As the season progressed, we implemented a few unique changes to the experience in response to episode plotlines and character traits (like when we gave the first 62 users that bent the knee for r/LyannaWinsTheThrone an “Original 62” flair). We also setup alliances so that bannermen of allied characters could post in each other’s communities (Team Arya and Sansa, anyone?). Of course, after the show is over we’ll be awarding some special trophies to winners and losers alike.

But who will be the victor? Will it be a fan favorite like that know-nothing Jon Snow, who has seen a 25 percent increase in Throne Pool supporters? Or will another character emerge from the shadows? Thousands of redditors seem to think Sansa may claim the final seat; she’s received four times the amount of backers since the beginning of the season! While we’ll have to wait until the finale for the true winner to be revealed, you can check out the most popular choices from redditors in our leaderboard on the r/gameofthrones sidebar on desktop (redesign only)!

And, if you haven’t caught up with the finale (why are you reading this then?) there’s still time to relive season 8 (or the entire series) with the r/gameofthrones community episode threads and collections.

Finally, if you’re still looking for a place to talk about the explosive finale on Sunday, check out a few of our select GoT-related communities below!

r/gameofthrones – As mentioned, this community is a popular destination to discuss both the television series as well as the source material. We’ve also curated a special Throne Pool Character Community Multi so you can keep up with the latest memes and show banter.

r/asoiaf – A community where you can discuss the A Song of Ice and Fire series and its relation to the series.

r/freefolk – Spoiler alert! Enter at your own risk. This meme-heavy community is a popular destination to find the latest news, rumors and spoiler-related content from the show.

r/aSongOfMemesAndRageA community dedicated to the dank-arts of memecraft related to both GoT and ASoIaF.

r/HBOGameofThronesA community dedicated to content and discussion about the television series only.

r/gottheories – A community for ASoIaF fans to discuss theories about the books and television series.

Reddit Global Meetup is coming! Set your calendars for June 22, 2019

It’s the time of the year again, redditors! “What time is that, u/bluepinkblack?” you ask. It’s Reddit Global Meetup time! “Renaming the event again this year, u/bluepinkblack?” you ask. You bet we are, and this time, with even more GLOBAL!

Each year in June, redditors just like yourself gather in parks, restaurants, beaches, active roadways (yes, really), to mingle and be jovial, celebrating one common theme amongst them all—Reddit! Meeting redditors IRL is an exciting opportunity to expand your online purview, share favorite communities, and debate on whether that hot dog you’re currently eating is a taco or a sandwich. What do you think u/Spez?

It’s true that redditors do meetups around the world all the time! When like-minded redditors get together, it’s usually a lot of fun. But June is the one special time of year when we go all-out and really show up, from Canada to India, Japan, and Australia, with hundreds of cities in between. What started in 2009 (now in its TENTH YEAR!) has become a true Reddit tradition for all redditors to bring their conversations from online to IRL.

This year, we’re celebrating our ninth annual Reddit Meetup Day on Saturday, June 22. If this is your first meetup, bring your best self and expect a good time in great company.

r/Auckland (Photo by u/onceyougoasian)

And by the way, Global really does mean GLOBAL! Thanks to this thread nine years ago, we were able to spread the news to Reddit communities in all parts of the world. That means you can find meetups in cities like Pune, Bangkok, and Buenos Aires. We also have meetups in Iloilo, London, and Vegas! If you’re looking for your city, or are vacationing during Reddit Meetup Day, check out our list of community subbies! And if you don’t see one in your town, be the change you want to see in your community and create one!

r/Houston 2018 (Photo by u/rechlin)
r/Lucknow 2018 (Photo by u/_insertname)
Singapore 2018 (Photo by u/hotgarbagecomics)

We can’t wait for Reddit Global Meetup this year. Thank you to all of the redditors in advance for planning these local meetups! Without you, we wouldn’t have the camaraderie we’ve built throughout the years.

Introducing Reddit Dublin!

Today, we are excited to officially announce that Reddit is opening its first international office in Dublin, Ireland (and yes, we’re hiring!).

Reddit has had a year of great momentum. On the product front, we rolled out our largest redesign ever, grew native video to 1B views per month, and expanded Reddit Coins with new Award options. Behind the scenes, we’ve scaled our Anti-Evil team’s proactive detection of attempted content manipulation to 99% (i.e. 99% of violations are actioned before a report is ever filed), and shared our Annual Transparency Report. To support our mission to bring community and belonging to everyone, we want to continue this momentum by investing in the growth of our teams. Ireland, and Dublin specifically, is a hub of engineering and product talent that is well suited for the teams we will expand. This combined with the region’s proven track record as a hub for scaling technology companies will allow us to strengthen Reddit’s longstanding commitment to the integrity of our site and the privacy of our users.

“Reddit is a high-profile, rapidly growing company and its choice of Dublin as the location for its first international office is really great news,” said Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA Ireland. “Dublin is an established tech hub within Europe and Reddit was attracted by the wealth of expertise available here.”

The new office space will be located in Dublin 2, overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. We plan to build out our Anti-Evil, Security, Community, and Engineering teams with two dozen new roles in 2019. These teams are responsible for ensuring the integrity, security, and health of our communities. They will work on core product development, site and user account security, and engineering solutions to detect and prevent policy-breaking content – while also adding additional capacity for those teams’ coverage across time zones.

“We’ve always taken the approach that our users’ safety and privacy matters,” says Reddit CTO Chris Slowe. “As our first international office, we chose Dublin to tap into the tech talent pool and extend our efforts focused on the health of the platform and user experience.”

If you’re interested in joining our mission to bring community and belonging to everyone, check out our Careers Page for a list of open positions.

Reddit NYC is Growing, Join Us! – Reddit Grows its NYC Business with Executive Hires and New Openings Across Brand Partnerships and Ads Engineering

Following a year of incredible momentum, we’re excited to welcome new members to Reddit’s East Coast leadership team and share growth plans for our expanding presence in New York City.

2018 and Today

In 2018, we made a number of important hires and rolled out new ad products and user experiences at an incredible rate — all in an effort to make Reddit more welcoming to both users and advertisers. At the start of 2019, the business team is focused on building out the offering and responding to the needs of the market. While our strategy touches every part of the organization, we’ve made a dedicated investment in growing our New York team.

Today, were excited to welcome new leadership for New York’s Brand Partnerships organization and announce the creation of Reddit’s first-ever East Coast engineering team, focused on ads optimization and machine learning.

Introducing Mary Ann Belliveau

We’re thrilled to welcome digital media veteran, Mary Ann Belliveau, as Senior Director of Brand Partnerships! In her new role, Mary Ann will bring her leadership and expertise with Fortune 500 companies and their agencies to lead the East Coast sales organization and help welcome an emerging class of advertisers to the platform.

Mary Ann has more than 20 years of sales leadership, business development and operational experience. Prior to joining Reddit, Mary Ann was the National Health and Wellness Director at Twitter, where she grew and developed Twitter’s Health and Wellness practice, driving the team’s strategy, revenue, industry and consumer insights, product insights, thought leadership and sales management. Before Twitter, Mary Ann spent 11 years at Google, where she was a founding member of Google’s Industry Development and Marketing Team.

“Mary Ann’s hire is a reflection of what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going,” says Jen Wong, Reddit’s COO. “2019 is the year we capitalize on the momentum from last year and the interest in the market, and we couldn’t be more excited to attract this level of talent and leadership to the organization at such a pivotal time.”

New Ads Engineering Team

In addition to growing our Brand Partnerships team, we’re excited to launch Reddit’s first-ever East Coast ads engineering team. The team, which rolls up to our VP of Ads Product and Engineering, Shariq Rizvi, is focused on leveraging machine learning to optimize the ad experience for users and maximizing efficiency for advertisers.

“Reddit’s East Coast engineering investment is emblematic of the talent in the market and the need to build solutions closer to Madison Avenue, says Shariq Rizvi, Reddit’s VP of Ads Product and Engineering. “Machine learning for ads optimization is a new frontier for Reddit, and we’re growing the NYC engineering team to take advantage of the deep pool of talent NYC has to offer.”

We’re thrilled to welcome Mary Ann and the entire ads optimization team. Please keep your eyes peeled for job postings and more growth at Reddit NYC and beyond!

Tomorrow, Congress Votes on Net Neutrality on the House Floor! Hear Directly from Members of Congress at 8pm ET TODAY on Reddit, and Learn What You Can Do to Save Net Neutrality!

As you all know, one of our biggest causes is supporting measures that help preserve the free and open internet, which is under threat worldwide from those who want to exercise more control over how you access the web at large. We don’t think that’s right, and feel strongly that users should be able to access all websites (including Reddit!) with equal ease and speed. No one—not the government, and not ISPs—should interfere in what sites you choose to visit.

The concept of Net Neutrality enshrines that principle. But unfortunately, in 2017, the FCC decided to overturn existing rules in favor of Net Neutrality, making it easier for ISPs to channel you toward content that benefits their bottom line.

Nevertheless, there have been a number of legislative efforts to try and restore Net Neutrality rules, and the newest one is making real waves. The Save the Internet Act would enshrine the principles of Net Neutrality into law, preventing internet service providers from blocking or throttling websites, or from allowing paid prioritization (that is, creating paid “fast lanes” for the big guys who can afford it, or for other content ISPs have an interest in).

As internet service providers increasingly swallow up the content industry, the temptations grow to funnel consumers toward content that benefits their bottom line, harming competition and closing off the web. (Don’t believe us? Head over here to Columbia Journalism Review’s “Who Owns What?” index and take a gander under the “Comcast” or “Time Warner” tabs). In a perfect world, if Americans had more choice between service providers, this might not be such an issue. But the reality is that more than 100 million Americans—many in rural areas—have only one option when it comes to how they get their internet at home. Accordingly, we need to protect Net Neutrality.

Congressional AMA TODAY at 8pm with Congressman McNerney

We support the Save the Internet Act, and are excited that it will be up for a full vote on the House floor tomorrow! We’re even more excited that we will be joined by Congressman Jerry McNerney of California (and maybe a few other guests), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, to take your questions about the bill directly in an AMA happening TODAY in r/politics at 8pm ET. Be sure to check it out!

What else can I do?

If Net Neutrality is something you care about, be sure to spread the word. The most important thing you can do is to call your member of Congress and let them know that you’ll be watching their vote tomorrow. (If you don’t know who your representative is, you can look them up here and find their contact information– you might also want to see whether they appeared in this instance of spontaneous community action on Reddit). Also, be sure to tell a friend! Many people still aren’t aware of the fight for Net Neutrality, and don’t realize that it will impact them in very real ways– especially those Americans living in rural areas who have the least choice when it comes to internet service providers. (Check out the comments on this post, where Redditors told us all about how Net Neutrality impacts them).

Finally, take some time today to continue to educate yourself about Net Neutrality and why it matters. In addition to the upcoming AMA with Rep. McNerney, we have some great past AMAs on the issue from other members of Congress including Congressman Mike Doyle (Pennsylvania), Senator Ed Markey (Massachusetts), and Senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii). We also have one from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and some California firefighters who had a scary moment last year fighting the wildfires when Verizon decided to throttle their network.

We feel the momentum in the fight for Net Neutrality, and we hope you will too! We’ll continue to keep you updated with how things progress.

ERROR: COPYRIGHT NOT DETECTED. What EU Redditors Can Expect to See Today and Why It Matters

We’ve spent a lot of time in the past year sharing updates and information on proposed changes to the EU Copyright Directive. Even though Reddit is an American company, we’d be highly impacted by changes to the law, as would our European users. It could even impact the availability of services we provide to non-EU users.

At its heart, changes to the law (known as Article 13), would force us to proactively confirm that the OP of any given post has the necessary copyright permissions to share it– something functionally impossible without installing automated content filters. Another part of the law, known as Article 11, would also force a change in how we process link posts, and could even impact discussions of specific news articles. Such regulations would create a chilling effect that penalizes smaller platforms and creators in favor of the large companies and media conglomerates that are already employing (or selling) automated content filters (to disastrous effect). But don’t just take our word for it. Check out what the guy at the UN whose literal job it is to protect free expression worldwide has to say about it.

This is a business issue for us– make no mistake. The passage of the new EU Copyright Directive would seriously impact Reddit’s ability to compete in the market against bigger players. But it’s also about more than that. Throughout our history, we have stood up against legislative efforts around the world that threaten to make the internet more closed, whether it was fighting against SOPA/PIPA in the US, or against the repeal of net neutrality protections.

What is most disappointing about the current EU Copyright Directive is the closed and opaque process by which we got here. Activists and normal netizens have been left out as things have kicked from backroom deal to backroom deal. Citizens exercising their right to be heard have been denigrated by those in power as “the mob.” There have been attempts to reschedule plenary votes as a means of pre-empting civil society demonstrations.

Despite these headwinds, you’re all doing incredible things to make your voices heard, whether through direct protests or by presenting the largest petition in history. Right here on Reddit, communities are actively discussing the Directive’s pros and cons in a civil and informed way that many (incorrectly) say isn’t possible on the internet anymore. And today, we’re joining together with platforms, creators, and civil society on Action Week against the Directive.

What’s Happening?

Starting today, March 21 (Brussels time!), when Reddit desktop users in EU countries attempt to make a top-level post on Reddit, they will be met by a simulated error message citing failure to confirm the copyright on their post (don’t worry, in actuality, your post will be fine). This experience, meant to mimic the automated filters that users would encounter should the Directive pass, will last through March 23rd, when IRL demonstrations are planned across Europe.

This is all leading up to the final Plenary vote on the Directive in the EU Parliament likely next week (though exact date still TBC).

What Can You Do?

We hope that our EU users will take this opportunity to educate themselves and get involved. Most important is to contact your MEP (be civil and polite when explaining your point). You could also participate in one of the demonstrations this weekend– check here for one that is near you. Or, you could read up on the issues and share your point of view right here on Reddit.

The bottom line is that the internet works better when it’s open. While copyright reform is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of everyday people’s ability to express themselves online.

Evolution of Push Notifications at Reddit

Arjun Bhargava, Paul Booth, Taylor Hudson, Saurabh Sharma, Kevin Zhang

The World of Push Notifications

Reddit released the first versions of its in-house mobile applications in 2016, and with this came new ways to showcase the communities and cat pics we offer the world. Notably, this included the ability to send push notifications to Redditors directly through the apps, so we were excited to explore this grand opportunity to help users discover the delight and sense of belonging we could bring them. In fact, research has shown that push notifications can result in people visiting an app 88% more frequently and users that opt in to push notifications come back to the app at nearly twice the rate of those who don’t. Additionally, research has indicated that about 50% of mobile app users find push notifications helpful, so we also had a chance to help even hardcore users use Reddit more easily. Push notifications, if used correctly, can have multiple benefits for users: they help notify users of relevant content, allow users to benefit from Reddit without needing to open the app, and enable users to discover new ways in which to engage with their communities..

Starting with the Basics

Reddit is a daily destination to millions of people all over the world who come to find discussion and content they’re interested in. We wanted our push notifications to be an extension of that. Fundamentally, we wanted to build a feature that enhances the aspects of Reddit that brighten our users’ day and helps them connect with other people and communities. To that end, we began by building out the ability to send notifications based on user-driven events that we thought people would want to know about, such as:

  • Replies to your comments
  • Replies to your posts
  • Mentions of your username
  • Private messages (including gold and moderator notifications)
  • Chat messages

We thought starting with this would help bring focus to discussion and community on Reddit. We made sure that users could control what notifications they received, but our hypothesis was that many would find it helpful to be notified and would find using Reddit even more rewarding with them. We built this as an experiment to test that hypothesis, and monitored for community feedback to see what people were saying about them. The data overall was very positive: Redditors who liked the discussion features of Reddit found it helpful to find out through notifications about how their discussions were going.

Once we were confident that notifications could be useful to people who were already highly engaged with Reddit communities, we began experimenting with something that would help people discover new things on Reddit. This called for a new notification based on our own signals rather than user-driven actions, and because of that we knew it would be much more difficult to get right. The idea seemed simple: we should send users something on Reddit they would be interested in. But the next question wasn’t simple: How do we do it?

The Right Stuff

When we first set out to introduce these push notifications to our users, we knew their success or failure would hinge on a simple question: With so much content submitted every day, how do we choose what to send any given person through a notification? We didn’t want to waste our users’ time by sending them something they don’t care about, but we couldn’t ask every single person what is the one Reddit post they would be most interested in. (At least, not without seriously overworking our user research folks.)

Our initial approach was to use a process called “explore/exploit,” in which we collected an array of recently posted Reddit content each morning that passed a certain threshold of upvotes and engagement, and sent a notification from that pool to a small set of users (20%). (We only sent users posts from subreddits they had subscribed to.) From those posts, we tracked which ones had the highest rates of users opening the notification within a few hours, and then sent out a post from that subset to the rest of our users. (Math-oriented folks will recognize this approach as an example of the classic [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-armed_bandit](multi-armed bandit) problem.) Essentially we started from a position of “exploring” which content could potentially be the most engaging, and once we had some idea of an answer, we “exploited” that knowledge to send the best content.

The results bore this approach out: users opened notifications sent from the “exploit” phase at consistently higher rates than those from the “explore” phrase. And our overall click-through rate was even higher than industry-average! So we kept running this system for over a year, making changes based on user feedback.

If You Send It, They Will Come

One change we made proved especially fruitful: Initially we had only sent notifications from a curated list of popular subreddits. But after a while this approach didn’t make much sense – the list contained subreddits that dropped off in activity as time went on, such as r/HouseOfCards and r/skyrim. To stay relevant we would need to continuously add new communities to reflect the changing interests of Redditors. It also meant smaller, more specialized communities would never get included, even if those were in fact the thing that would be the most interesting to a given user.

We realized we were trying to do too much work when our users had already answered the question for us – one thing Redditors tend to be good at is cultivating their own experience to match what they’re interested in. So we ran an experiment: instead of using a curated list and matching that against a user’s subscribed communities, we instead sent people something that could come from _any_ of their subscribed communities that met a certain activity threshold, and excluding controversial or hot-button communities. (We also maintained a long-standing rule about not sending out NSFW content or posts with objectionable text. We don’t want anyone to be surprised in a bad way by what they get in a notification.)

The results were positive – sending people something they had already expressed an interest in was clearly better than trying to filter for them preemptively. It was so successful that the decision to adopt it as our new standard was easy. But as successful as the experiment was, putting it in place had proven cumbersome and solidified some of the core weaknesses in the explore/exploit system. Because the system had been initially built out as a quick experiment, it was difficult to change many of the baked-in assumptions, such as the right time to begin sending notifications or how to collect the initial “exploration” pool of posts. We also found that as Reddit continued to grow through 2018, the time it took our system to figure out what to send for every user stretched longer and longer, which meant the notifications were getting increasingly stale by the time they were received.

We also knew that there were countless other ways we wanted to iterate to find even more personalized content to send, and we continued to strive towards the ideal goal of sending the perfect post to each Reddit user at the exact right time. But we wouldn’t be able to keep running experiments when making any change would take weeks of work, so we knew we had to find something that could replace the long-standing explore/exploit system with something better. Could we find such a thing?

The Answer was Right in Front of Us…

We built a new content selection system based on an already existing idea: the same algorithm that powers what logged-in Redditors see by default when they visit their Reddit home page. This algorithm, also known as best sort, was designed to offer each Redditor an optimized window into the discussions they find the most interesting. Our recommendation system weighs multiple signals, such as the age of a post and the amount of votes, by machine learning algorithms to output an optimized ranking of posts specific to that person and moment in time. Using this algorithm, we would have better content (fresher, more recent posts) and a better way to map that to what a person would be interested in.

By implementing this new system, we bypassed many of the assumptions and limitations baked into our older notification system, and were able to iterate more quickly. As always, we tested it experimentally, and saw results that exceeded even our most optimistic expectations – sending posts that were already highly tailored to each user by mirroring their homepage experience was extremely successful. With this, our architecture took a big step towards our ultimate goal of helping users more easily find community and belonging.

What’s next?

Of course, even that system isn’t perfect, and we’re constantly iterating on our push notifications system to aim for the ultimate goal of helping everyone find their home on Reddit. Push notifications have drastically evolved over the last two years from user-driven push notifications to machine-learning models that deliver what you would see on your home feed. While these experiments have already shown success helping people find the value of Reddit, we’re excited about what’s to come! We are exploring more ways to connect people with Reddit such as browser notifications and emails, and improving our existing notifications to be more personalized and timely.

Anything you would like to see in the next evolution of Push Notifications? Come help us build it! We’re Hiring. Also, if at any point you disabled PNs on the official app and would like to re-enable, you can do so by following this guide.