Reddit experiments with crypto

Reddit experiments with crypto-based points system

The points, based on the Ethereum blockchain, could be used to buy Reddit Premium membership and purchase things like badges, GIFs, and emojis

Funny cat videos are rewarded with a mere like on Facebook. On Reddit, they could soon be rewarded with cryptocurrency.

Reddit experiments with crypto

The social network is said to be experimenting with a new system for racking up points that is based on the Ethereum blockchain.

“Community Points” are reportedly going to be distributed to the users of a subreddit—a forum that’s devoted to a particular topic—on a monthly basis. They’ll be earned by making valuable posts and contributions.

A video on r/CryptoCurrency appears to show how the system works explains that these points would be used to buy Reddit Premium membership, vote in weighted polls, and purchase things like badges, GIFs, and animated emojis. It also seems they would measure someone’s reputation, as points will be displayed next to usernames.  

 Bitcoin to Ethereum

A Reddit spokesperson wouldn’t confirm the authenticity of the video or whether this new system will be based on the Ethereum blockchain, but added: “We continuously experiment with ways to support communities on Reddit. In this instance, we’re working with one community to test a feature that represents a user’s involvement in a community.”

Alexis Ohanian, who co-founded Reddit, is a big advocate of cryptocurrencies. The site began accepting bitcoins in payment for its Reddit Gold (now rebranded Reddit Premium) subscriptions as early as 2013.

Ohanian  has since moved on to establish Initialized Capital with Garry Tan, and together, the pair occupy 28th and 29th position on the Modern Consensus list of the 100 most influential people in crypto for 2020. Coinbase and Instacart are some of Initialized’s highest-profile investments to date.

Beyond Upvotes

Reddit currently has a two-tier reward system. Link karma is received when users post popular content, while comment karma is received when a valuable contribution is “upvoted” by another user. (Effectively a way of saying thank you.) Both of these scores can go down if a user posts something deeply unpopular.

Beyond that, Reddit began offering award medals several years ago, starting with gold and then adding silver and platinum, which can be purchased and given to posts as a sort of super upvote. Gold medals can be purchased for $1.25-$1.99 depending on bulk. The recipients get one month of ad-free Reddit Premium and a varying amount of coins to hand out themselves. 

What’s interesting about this system, if the video is accurate, is how it effectively takes points outside of Reddit’s control altogether—decentralizing the system. As the video explains: “This means your community points can be seen and used independently of Reddit, without having to get Reddit’s permission to use them.” Points are pseudonymous—particularly important given how many of the social network’s users contribute under the cloak of anonymity.

Arguably one of the most interesting elements of this scheme is how community points could have a life beyond Reddit, even if the social network closes. Whereas karma scores cannot be traded and they are controlled by Reddit’s computers, these points “can be traded freely, and they can be used for any number of purposes within the community, without restriction and control,” the video said.

Mixed reaction

It’s fair to say that the proposals have had a mixed reaction so far. As the official spokesperson said, they won’t be rolled out across the whole network automatically. 

On the r/cryptocurrency subreddit, where a video of the proposals was first released, there was disappointment that these points couldn’t be converted into fiat. One redditor asked: “If I can’t purchase anything physical, what’s the point?”

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.