What is Reddit? A beginner’s guide to the front page of the internet

redditors dont read what they vote on reddit photos

If you spend a lot of time online, chances are you’ve heard of Reddit. The site bills itself as the “front page of the internet,” and that’s not an empty boast: As of this writing, Reddit is the fifth most popular site in the United States, according to Alexa, and the 18th worldwide. So what exactly is Reddit? Essentially, it’s a massive collection of forums, where people can share news and content or comment on other people’s posts. Here’s everything you need to know.

Jacob O’Gara also contributed to this post.

The jargon and design of Reddit

Reddit is broken up into over a million communities known as “subreddits,” each covering a different topic. The name of a subreddit begins with /r/, which is part of the URLs that Reddit uses. /r/nba, for example, is a subreddit where people talk about the National Basketball Association, while /r/boardgames is a subreddit for people to discuss board games. Those are straightforward subreddits, but they can get weird, such as /r/birdswitharms, a subreddit devoted to pictures of birds…with arms. Or /r/ooer, a subreddit which we find inexplicable (and a bit painful to look at).

If you’re just looking at Reddit for the first time, you may be a bit confused by what you are seeing, so here’s a quick rundown. The homepage (or “front page”) shows you various posts that are currently trending on the site, pulled from a variety of subreddits. You can click the sort button in the upper left to sort by posts that are “hot” (trending), new, controversial, and more.

what is reddit screenshot

There is a search bar near the top, which you can use to find both posts and subreddits related to a term. A search for “world cup,” for example, turns up some popular posts about the World Cup, and relevant subreddits such as /r/soccer.

what is reddit screenshot2

Anyone with a Reddit account can create a subreddit, for any topic (as long as it stays within the site’s community guidelines). Subreddits are managed by “moderators,” volunteers who can edit the appearance of a particular subreddit, dictate what types of content are allowed in the sub, and even remove posts or content or ban users from the subreddit. Reddit as a whole is governed by the admins, employees of Reddit who have vast powers across the site, including the ability to strip moderators of their privileges and even ban entire subreddits from the site.

Next to a post, you’ll likely see up and down arrows, as well as a number. Users click the arrows to upvote or downvote posts, increasing or decreasing their visibility, and the number reflects the current sum of upvotes and downvotes. Reddit users can also upvote and downvote other users’ comments, and every account has a “karma” number tied to it, which indicates how much karma their comments have received in total. Karma doesn’t get you hip Reddit swag or anything like that, but it does help to boost your standing in the Reddit community. Be proud of your Karma! (Or don’t; one could argue it’s a vapid number that merely shows how skilled you are at pleasing the crowd.)

Like most online communities, Reddit  has its own language. Redditors tend to talk in abbreviations such as OP, TIL, IAmA, and AMA. “OP” just refers to the “original poster” in a thread, while “TIL” means “Today I learned” and is one of the most common abbreviations you’ll see. Many posts are simple “TIL” observations and realizations. Both “IAmA” and “AMA” refer to what might very well be Reddit’s most popular feature: The “Ask Me Anything” thread. In an “AMA,” a well-known person like Barack Obama or Nick Offerman, or someone who’s had a unique life experience — or a harrowing one, such as the woman who was mauled by a bear, fought it off, and drove four miles down a mountain with her face hanging off — submits himself or herself to the inquisitive minds of Reddit. The resulting threads are some of the most insightful, humorous, and fascinating interviews you’ll ever read.

You can also help make the community by purchasing Reddit Gold, the site’s premium membership program. For $4 a month or $30 a year, Gold users have access to features that regular users don’t get, and they test out new features before they’re released to the wider Reddit community. Users can also give Reddit gold to other users as a gift, usually done when someone makes a post others really enjoy. Reddit Gold also gives you access to /r/lounge, a super-secret subreddit where the brightest minds on Reddit assemble to engage in witty banter (or something), along with other benefits. You don’t need to buy Reddit Gold to have fun on Reddit, but it’s a way to support the site, get some perks, and be invested in the community.

Just remember, Reddit is a group of people meeting on the internet, sharing stuff, and talking to one another. That’s it. Act as you would if you were hanging out with old friends or new ones. Reddit’s become a popular hub for many topics, both good and bad, and it’s recently taken steps to making the site more inclusive by eliminating explicit content from its public homepage.

Signing up 

If Reddit sounds like your kind of place, then sign up by visiting the login page and securing your username, password, and email before verifying that you’re not a robot. Once you’re signed in, Reddit will give you suggestions on how to find popular boards you might be interested in. If you already know what communities you want to be a part of, then just type it in the search bar in the upper-right corner.

Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Computing

Hackers sold 120 million private Facebook messages, report says

Up to 120 million private Facebook messages were being sold online by hackers this fall. The breach was first discovered in September and the messages were obtained through unnamed rogue browser extensions. 
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. You're in luck -- we've gathered 23 of the best subreddits to help…
Social Media

Facebook opens pop-up stores at Macy’s, but they’re not selling the Portal

Facebook has opened pop-up stores at multiple Macy's, though they're not selling Facebook's new Portal device. Instead, they're showcasing small businesses and brands that are already popular on Facebook and Instagram.
Social Media

Facebook Messenger will soon let you delete sent messages

A feature coming to Facebook Messenger will let you delete a message for up to 10 minutes after you send it. The company promised the feature months ago and this week said it really is on its way ... "soon."
Social Media

Pinterest brings followed content front and center with full-width Pin format

Want to see Pinterest recommendations, or just Pins from followed users? Now Pinners can choose with a Pinterest Following feed update. The secondary feed eliminates recommendation and is (almost) chronological.
Smart Home

Facebook's Alexa-enabled video-calling devices begin shipping

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Social Media

Vine fans, your favorite video-looping app is coming back as Byte

Vine fans were left disappointed in 2017 when its owner, Twitter, pulled the plug on the video-looping app. But now one of its co-founders has promised that a new version of the app, called Byte, is coming soon.
News

Social media use increases depression and anxiety, experiment shows

A study has shown for the first time a causal link between social media use and lower rates of well-being. Students who limited their social media usage to 30 minutes a day showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out.
Social Media

Twitter boss hints that an edit button for tweets may finally be on its way

Twitter has been talking for years about launching an edit button for tweets, but it still hasn't landed. This week, company boss Jack Dorsey addressed the matter again, describing a quick-edit button as "achievable."
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.