Reddit plans a profile page redesign reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter (updated)

Reddit has been trying to make its site more accessible to a wider pool of users, and today the company is planning to show off one of the ways it plans to do that: by making the service a little bit more like Facebook and Twitter.

From today, Reddit is going to start offering users a new profile page design that will let them make posts directly to the pages themselves (not just communities), and Reddit users who are logged in will be able to follow the profile for new posts.

The news was made public in a post in Reddit itself last night, which noted that the new profile view will be tested out first with a “few redditors” starting this morning, Tuesday the 21st. It was further confirmed in smaller detail with a short item on Reuters quoting Alexis Ohanian, the company’s co-founder.

We’ve been looking on the site to see if we can spot one of these new profiles (and have reached out to Reddit itself, too) and will update as and when we find one (one hint from the Reddit employee posting about the new feature is that they will appear in r/all or r/popular pages). (Update: The original person who tipped us this news anonymously has now sent over an example. More below.) In the meantime, here is the low-down:

First of all, the redditors getting the new feature will be able to post to their own profiles, which is a change from existing rules that require you to post to communities. The posts, Reddit says, will combine what the profile holders make both to their own page as well as to communities.

The pages sound like they will be more dynamic: a more prominent avatar, a description about themselves, along with the posts.

You will have to be logged in to follow the new profile pages, and when you do, their posts will appear in your own “home page” (“front page” in Reddit’s terminology).

You will be able to comment on these profile posts but not create new posts on someone else’s profile page. The pages will be moderated by those who create them and whoever they authorize to administrate them.

Last week during SXSW, co-founder Alexis Ohanian admitted that Reddit hasn’t done the greatest of jobs to make the site more accessible to newer users, who are often flummoxed by the onboarding process that requires you to register before commenting, find and follow subreddits that you might like around specific content themes, and go through a process of upvoting to help content surface for other users, in and amongst a lot of noise.

Talking about how his significant other (Serena Williams) had to be ushered through the process by Ohanian himself was one specific wake-up call, he noted. “We have to get smart about showing you stuff you’re going to like,” he said.

The changes, Reddit says, are indeed being made to help point users to specific content that they might want to see, in this case coalescing around a specific personality, much as you see in Twitter or Facebook. Just as Reddit launched a new kind of channel for advertising in response to conversations with would-be advertisers, this appears to have come out of equivalent discussions with specific people.

“We’re making this change because content creators tell us they have a hard time finding the right place to post their content,” Reddit notes. “We also want to support them in being able to grow their own followers (similar to how communities can build subscribers). We’ve been working very closely with mods in a few communities to make sure the product will not negatively impact our existing communities. These mods have provided incredibly helpful feedback during the development process, and we are very grateful to them. They are the ones that helped us select the first batch of test users.”

There is also a hint that some prominent users, and perhaps those who dabble in Reddit with, say, an “AMA” (ask me anything) question-and-answer session, might be less inclined to stay a while, and this could help counter that. “We think this will allow some of the best content creators on reddit to stay on reddit and grow,” the original Reddit poster noted in response to why the changes are taking place.

For all the hope that Reddit has for this to push the service out to a bigger pool of users, there is predictably a lot of backlash so far.

Those responding to the post announcing the new profile pages have asked whether this will potentially weaken the amount of interesting content that gets posted to communities. Others wonder if this will simply make the service more like Facebook and Twitter.

And perhaps speaking most to the democratic nature of Reddit’s upvoting and downvoting structure, people wonder whether this will undermine the self-regulating aspect of the platform:

“Away from the comments, then, who will potentially review the content posted by individuals? Communities have moderator teams to that end that are specifically in place to act quickly. Will the admin team review and potentially remove posts if they violate sitewide rules?,” writes one moderator. “What kind of response time could we expect if something’s not particularly egregious but is still bad, given your already considerable duties?”

Given that we’ve seen how fast something can spread from Reddit to the wider world — whether it’s good news, bad news, clearly slanted news or straight-out fake news — it’s a tricky but interesting test to see how adding this kind of profile structure will work.

Update! Looks like Shitty_Watercolour has one of the new pages, which comes with some commenting abilities for users on his posts; posts from places where he’s commented; a page with a bigger banner and avatar; and, yes, a follow button.

My guess is that these pages will only do as well as the traffic they get. If people are getting more responses elsewhere they may be less inclined to put in effort on these pages. It does also lay some groundwork for Reddit to add in more bells and whistles, too.

If you’re new to Reddit, though, I suspect this isn’t going to feel hugely different from what’s already there.