Reddit's co-founder said it felt like a school project gone wild, not a business.

Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder, shares about the challenges he and his team faced during the development of Reddit and how they felt responsibility to protect free speech.

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, recently conveyed certain thoughts regarding Reddit's early phases. In a conversation with The Verge, he unfolded some details about the hardships encountered during the website's development. Coming up with a platform that supported free speech was his primary goal, but the choice was not without its drawbacks.

Reddit: A Product of Consistent Efforts

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The fundamental driving force behind the creation of Reddit was the desire to uphold the essence of free speech. However, the commitment led to certain burdens that were hard to tackle. The team often felt a tremendous duty to ensure that users had the liberty to share their opinions while maintaining a delicate balance of keeping the platform inclusive and respectful.


The mission was not easy. Their obligation to upholding free speech sometimes bordered a harassing tone, straining the promised freedom. The troublesome part was not just maintaining freedom of speech, but also ensuring that it was thoroughly protected. In Ohanian's own words, they were trying to achieve a very delicate equilibrium.

The origin of Reddit was humbly futuristic, with the honest effort to give people a voice and a place where they could freely express their opinions. It was entirely based on a small team's vision to make the platform a more comprehensive spot for people to come together and discuss.

The Consequences of a Commendable Cause

While the aim was noble, the road to success was not smooth. Managing a platform that virtually gave people unfiltered freedom to express their thoughts was a tremendous responsibility. This, accompanied by the initial setbacks of bringing a large scale project to life, strained the team.

According to Ohanian, it was hard to predict how the platform, which was initially designed as a space for open discussions, evolved into what some might call a shield for neo-Nazis and extremists. It was a stark deviation from the vision they harbored initially, which aimed at empowering singular individuals in the society.

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It was not Reddit's plan to favor any group, let alone those that bred hatred or bigotry. They were stuck in the perplexing plight of protecting free speech while not allowing it to fuel into something destructive. What they aimed at and what they were being perceived as were starkly divergent, and this raised questions of existential crisis for Reddit.

Although supportive of free speech, Reddit was not targeting an imbalanced power play favoring negativity. It was a struggle that Reddit had to endure, a challenge that Reddit, as a company, was compelled to take on. It was simply a product of the act of balancing protection of free speech and maintaining an overall harmonious environment on the platform.

Reflections and Realizations

Despite the negative repercussions, there was a flip side to the situation as well. Even though they faced numerous challenges, Reddit became a platform that was responsible for numerous positive and impactful discussions. The platform was host to several societal discussions, tech talks, medical advice, and various other enriching conversations that made it the vibrant platform it is today.

For Ohanian, allowing such a platform to exist meant that some voices would rise above the others. This broke the homogeneity that normally exists within such platforms and allowed for a range of diverse and enriching conversations.

The founder's belief was also echoed within sections of the Reddit community, who argued that although the unfiltered nature of the space may have aggregated fringe elements, it had also allowed for a much higher degree of freedom of expression. It helped to shed light on hidden conversations and enabled a platform for the unheard.

The contentious yet important role the platform has played in protecting free speech could not be overlooked. Reddit's original vision, despite its drawbacks, has played a pivotal role in shaping online communication.

The Middle Ground

In spite of the challenges faced by Reddit, it is important to acknowledge that it has been able to skirt around the issues by finding a middle ground. While it takes a firm stance on freedom of speech, Reddit also ensures that it has definitive boundaries set to foster a healthy community. And this is probably what sets Reddit apart in the social media cosmos.

This middle ground seems to be the key to maintaining Reddit's diverse and vibrant culture. This form of digital democracy can be a challenging task, but it's one that they continuously work towards. The Reddit team believes that this constant effort to balance the spectrum ensures a harmonious future for the platform.

For the Reddit team, the journey has been about learning from their experiences and changing with the times. It has been about understanding the dynamics of a digital space that simultaneously carries multiple voices and managing the responsibilities that come with it.

Reddit has its own trials and tribulations but has always carried on with a spirit of resilience and a determination which ensured that it continued to thrive in the vast expanse of the online world. Ohanian's recollections serve as a significant reminder of the platform's journey from its initial aspirations to a platform fostering free speech with due responsibility.