‘Blockchain is a Huge Opportunity to Save Reddit Community,’ Says Ryan X. Charles

Ryan X. Charles, a former Reddit engineer, is convinced that he can save the community using the blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin.

Photo: Eva Blue/Flickr

Photo: Eva Blue/Flickr

It’s obvious that Reddit is living its hard days. Lots of subreddits are protesting, hundreds of redditors are moving to other platforms looking for commitment to free speech. In a nutshell, the tension between Reddit and its community keeps growing.

A former Reddit’s cryptocurrency engineer, Ryan X. Charles, says he can save the community. He is already working on a prototype of a Reddit spin-off using the technology behind Bitcoin. Serving as bitcoin’s distributed public ledger, the technology of blockchain is cryptographically protected against revisions. Utilizing the technology, users can be sure that no one can manipulate existing content.

“I think there is a huge opportunity here,” Wired quotes Charles’ words. “There is a social moment happening now where people are realizing that something like that would be awesome.”

Actually, community criticisms are the reason of this opportunity. Reddit users say that the news aggregator overreaches its authority by closing subreddits considered harassing, reads Wired. Not long ago, Steve Huffman, the architect behind Reddit, became Reddit’s CEO replacing Ellen Pao. Well, we can’t help but mention the recent controversy over Reddit banning some subreddits for violating the firm’s new anti-harassment policy.

As for Ryan X. Charles’ system, it’s obvious that the controversy wouldn’t happen. Thanks to the bitcoin’s technology, the content within the system cannot be retroactively removed. Moreover, if users are not happy with the information their operators of nodes choose to hide, they can switch to other competing nodes or launch their own ones.

“The turmoil highlights the moral hazard of having a company at the middle that owns the entire experience,” Charles explains. “It’s inevitable that the company and the users will come into conflict sometimes. But with a centralized experience, it’s extremely difficult for the users to have a say in resolving any conflicts. A decentralized approach would give more power to the users.”

It’s necessary to say that other programmers tried to use the technology behind Bitcoin to release their apps and platforms. For example, in 2014, a Brazilian developer launched a decentralized Twitter-like app leveraging blockchain. The application dubbed Twister implements BitTorrent’s underlying technologies. So, there’s no need for users to maintain servers to distribute posts.

“New technology has enabled new possibilities for users to be directly rewarded for their contributions. The opportunity is for something different. Not something that competes with Reddit, but something new that allows a community to have ownership over their content.”

Despite the fact that Charles sees the blockchain as an antidote to Reddit’s troubles, he has a lot of work to do. When the prototype is ready, it’l be necessary to enlist redditors to adopt the platform.

Much of Reddit’s success can be traced to the demise of the original Digg, a similar aggregator service that alienated its userbase in 2010 following a widely-hated redesign of the product that the company would not walk back, reads Wired.

However, Charles says Reddit is not experiencing a Digg-like situation. Moreover, he is  “convinced the current leadership is competent and can repair the damage.”

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