Big changes are coming to Reddit – and some users really aren’t happy | Science & Tech News

Swipe through your social media apps of choice and you will likely notice them looking increasingly similar.

The rapid ascent of TikTok, now with more than a billion monthly active users, to become the attention-sapper of choice for many has threatened the dominance of old favourites like no app before it.

With Instagram‘s Reels and YouTube‘s Shorts, Meta and Google both adopted very recognisable vertical feeds of short-form videos to try to stop users succumbing to their Chinese rival’s infamous algorithm.

And in the not-too-distant future, Reddit is getting in on the act. The forum-style platform, which sees users join different communities based on their interests, will split text and video posts into separate feeds. Both will show posts from subreddits users are subscribed to, but also recommendations.


The company’s chief product officer, Pali Bhat, is all too ready for the obvious comparisons to be made.

“Our focus is not just on the video, but the conversation around the video,” he told Sky News.

“That’s what makes the experience truly ‘Reddity’ – all things on Reddit are people powered. Every single post or comment gets upvoted and downvoted, and that’s what determines what rises up and down.”


‘Reddity’ feedback

On Reddit’s post detailing the changes, some of the most upvoted comments don’t make for pretty reading.

“I think Reddit should focus on what makes Reddit unique instead of trying to beat Meta or TikTok at their game.”

“Everything will look even more generic.”

“New Reddit interface is basically completely intended for content consumption.”

But perhaps none are as cut-throat as this: “I beg you to not become a participant in the movement that is actively destroying attention spans and destroys the core purpose of a website.”

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Reddit’s ‘evolution’ is a balancing act

Of course, people getting angsty online about changes to their favourite services is nothing new. Bhat says Reddit’s experienced a growth in users and expects it to continue.

But that last comment gets to the heart of how some feel social platforms have changed over the last half-decade – gravitating away from friends, family, comments and discussion and towards engagement, influencers and brands.

As one analyst put it to Sky News after Spotify unveiled a TikTok-esque redesign of its own, we are in an era of “micro-attention apps”, where platforms are more desperate than ever to keep you staring at your phone.

Bhat insists Reddit’s Read and Watch feeds are about becoming “more simple” and “less intimidating” – and is determined not to alienate the platform’s user base, which stretches across more than 100,000 communities.

“There’s certainly evolution every service needs to go through,” he said.

“But some services are starting to largely look like each other in terms of what they’re attempting. It causes those services to become more complex and go away from the heart of the value of the service they provide.

“If something you love changes to the point it becomes unrecognisable, you stop using it.”

Given the breadth of subreddits on the platform – with everything from the war in Ukraine and American politics to Marvel films and fantasy football represented – the variety of videos people could be given by the new feed may seem almost overwhelming. Indeed, the most popular recent videos range between Arnold Schwarzenegger fixing potholes and the aftermath of a toxic train derailment in Ohio.

It remains to be seen how the Watch feed gets tailored to each user, but Bhat is confident it will only serve relevant, interesting and entertaining videos tailored to them – and ones which have been upvoted.

But then there’s the darker side of Reddit, which has long been home to adult-only communities which host discussions, pictures, and videos that – if seen by a child – may fall foul of the UK’s incoming Online Safety Bill.

Among its proposals are to place legal duties on platforms to enforce age limits, and make them use age-checking measures to protect children from inappropriate content.

Bhat refused to be drawn on if and how Reddit might have to change to adhere to such legislation, but said the company was “proactive about engaging with governments on how we make sure we are keeping users safe”.

“On Reddit, regardless of who you are, a post has to be in the context of a community and starts with zero votes and then gets upvoted or downvoted,” he said.

“We are completely committed to safety, and one of the advantages Reddit has is the approach we’ve taken.”

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Reddit has gone through controversial refreshes before, helped by offering a retro version of the site for diehards who refuse to embrace what’s new.

But while some may mourn the days of distinct social media platforms (even Kim Kardashian had it in for Instagram’s changes last year), the viewing habits of Gen Z may suggest times have changed for good.

If your preferred app wants to keep up, imitation appears the way to go. And should the growing calls to ban TikTok come to fruition, it may look a smart play.

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