Now that Reddit is one of the top 5 websites in the world, many people want to know how Reddit got started and, ultimately, became so popular. So, how exactly did Reddit grow? First, watch this video:
There are plenty of resources explaining the funding and early days of Reddit with Alexis, Steve, YCombinator and Conde Nast. We strongly suggest reading We Are the Nerds by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin. What is more interesting, to most, is how Reddit actually got users and filled the Front Page of the Internet with the best content.
As can be seen in the video, Steve and Alexis were allowed to add a username to each link they submitted. There are plenty of stories about the two trying to come up with the most clever usernames or making fun of each other in usernames. In essence, every single time Alexis or Steve posted a link, it created a new user account and made Reddit look bigger and more popular than it really was. In essence, it truly was fake it until you make it.
Reddit really took off in 2007 and 2008 when social bookmarking websites such as Digg, Mixx, Propeller, Delicious and StumbleUpon were the early iterations of social media. In fact, Digg was much larger than Reddit for several years until Digg revamped their homepage and users flocked to Reddit. Reports state that 250,000 Digg users moved to Reddit the day of the Digg homepage change.
Some would argue the Obama AMA was the reason Reddit became popular. This is not true. Reddit was one of the top social bookmarking websites as early as 2007. The reason Reddit gained in popularity was the amount of traffic it sent to websites when a post got to the Front Page of Reddit.