Three years ago, Paul Graham and his Y Combinator incubator funded Reddit, a social news site that has grown to over 2.5 million unique visitors a month. Reddit has never been able to match the success of Digg, its closest competitor, but in 2006 it got its payday after being acquired by Condé Nast/Wired for an undisclosed amount.
Now, it seems that Y Combinator is hoping that lightning will strike twice. Its latest startup, Slinkset, is looking to offer a “hosted Reddit” solution, allowing users to create their own social news sites with as little technical knowhow as possible. You can see a hosted version of the site that has been created for TechCrunch readers here.
At first glance, Slinkset looks like little more than a Reddit clone. Users can vote news stories Up or Down, with the most popular stories rising to the top of the page. The big difference here is that unlike Digg and Reddit, Slinkset isn't looking to become a destination site. Instead, it's offering users the chance to create their own branded “Reddits” with no coding necessary. For the time being Slinkset is offering its hosting service free of charge, with plans to introduce a fixed fee in the future.
Unfortunately, despite its aspirations to let users to create no-hassle branded pages, Slinkset's customization options are pretty limited. Site admins can easily swap the color schemes, adjust fonts, and add a logo, but that's about it. In the future the site hopes to integrate drag-and-drop widgets and ad placement, but with a company that currently consists of only two co-founders, these are probably a ways off.
So is Slinkset really necessary? You can already create your own hosted Reddit through Reddit itself (albeit with limited customizability). Mixx, another competitor in this space, also features a similar hosted offering.
And the site's launch comes less than a month after Reddit went open-source, allowing developers to create their own, fully tweakable, Reddit clones (you can see our version, Tech News, here). Slinkset co-founder Brett Gibson says that while the release of Reddit's source code will help skilled programmers create their own social news site, it won't do any good for the legions of bloggers and small-time sites that don't know how to implement it, which is where he hopes Slinkset comes in. This may be the case, but unless Slinkset can improve on its customization features, it will have a hard time separating itself from its well-established competitors.