Reddit has platform-user misalignment

Reddit users have begun their protest against the site's recent API and content changes, with more subreddits going dark by the hour. It's another in a long history of sites making decisions necessary for survival, but antithetical to the desires of their userbase. Youtube did this when it first introduced ads. Digg did this when it realized algorithmic feed content and splashy images were better oriented for ad revenue, which led to the infamous Digg v4 downfall. These examples are consistent throughout recent internet history: Myspace departed from its goal of providing personalized homepages when it realized the needs of established musical artists were more monetizable than the needs of casual users.

Reddit is currently having its Digg moment

Users are rightfully asking "why didn't Reddit learn from Digg?". In my view, this is the wrong question to ask, because it implies that Reddit is ignorant of the decisions that doomed Digg. Instead, Reddit is copying Digg's playbook because its existence is fundamentally threatened; it is unprofitable and will continue to remain so without meaningful changes to its revenue model. Only two viable paths remain:

  1. Continue to raise more funding and continue the status quo
  2. Find new ways to make the platform attractive to advertisers

Reddit is in the middle of their shift to prioritize advertisers above users and content creators. Today, this is the inevitable outcome for every ad-based platform.

Ad-driven platforms as a business model always clash with the interests of the user. Profitability trumps user experience. Plenty of precedents exist - Youtube, Twitter, the shift away from adult content on Tumblr and so on. Reddit joins this group by optimizing the site towards ad sells. I predict we'll continue to see visual ads proliferate on Reddit (hence the shift to their mobile app and the new design) since these full page ads tend to command a premium over text based ads.

The goals of these sites are universally the same, and they boil down to these tenets:

  1. Optimize the viewing experience to sell the most profitable types of ads
  2. Increase time spent on the site through addictive tactics
  3. Ensure that your advertisers are OK with the content that is present on the site
The Three Golden Rules of Freemium Sites

Whether Reddit survives this transition awaits to be seen. If they don't, the question on my mind is whether users flock to a clone (and thus be doomed to face this same cycle again), or whether they will embrace a model that fundamentally aligns user and platform demands in a way that supports sustainable growth?

Will users flock to a Reddit clone, or will users choose a model that fundamentally aligns user and platform demands?

There are many Reddit-replacement contenders, this site being among them. Before I detail this site's model and approach, I'd also like to highlight others' approaches first. User d3rr on Reddit compiled this amazing list comparing and contrasting platforms, which I'd highly recommend looking through (if only to see the scale of people trying to address this problem).

Nonio's Model

The simplest approach is to have a paid model, as they fundamentally align user and platform goals. The user is the customer (as opposed to the product), and the site has a vested interest to provide a good experience. Nonio pursues this, but goes a step further. Here's how it works:

You choose your subscription (minimum $2 per month). Nonio takes $1 of that to run the site. Whatever is left after that is split evenly between everything you upvote that month.

Currently I'm thinking of allowing free users to browse, and restricting interactions to paid users only. Making interactions paid-only greatly simplifies moderation and spam prevention. As a focus for the site, I want to optimize for original content rather than external links to other content. At this time I'm not allowing external links, though I'd love people's thoughts on this. Right now I support images, videos up to 8k res, simple text posts, and html/css/js uploads, which should be enough to support most content.

This approach comes with some pros and cons:


  • Alignment of user and platform goals
  • Allows for creators to receive returns for their effort
  • Users will (hopefully) be more diligent in what they upvote. If every upvote reduces the percentage of their subscription pool that a post receives, they have to weigh each vote vs what they previously voted on. Will you upvote a low-effort meme if you previously voted on an article that inspired you? Do they deserve equal percentages of your subscription pool? I hope users consider this, and that the side effect is higher quality content rises to the top.


  • Users have to pay before they submit - this barrier might be too high for success of the platform.
  • Why choose this site as a casual user when others are free?

I'm not sure if this is the right model, but I hope at the very least it's a step in the right direction. The site is currently in a pre-launch stage, and is in active testing. Because of that, at this time I'm allowing free users to post as they wish. If you want to test the site, I'd suggest that for now you don't pay. All payment is handled by Stripe, so there's no risk of overcharging or anything, I just want to test the payout algorithms a bit more. If you're not interested in this model, that's totally OK too, but I'd encourage you to test and evaluate sites that are trying to solve this problem in new ways. Somewhere out there is a business model that makes more sense for both users and platforms, and I hope we find it.

List of Reddit Alternatives
Nonio Github Repo
Nonio API