Regular readers of the Reddit website might soon see their long wait for an official mobile app coming to an end. In an online post about things to expect from the site in 2016, co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman yesterday revealed that an Android app for Reddit is currently being tested in a private beta version and an iOS app "should follow it out soon."
Now in its 11th year, Reddit has experienced a number of ups and downs over its history, including last year's sudden departure of interim CEO Ellen Pao; a revolt by many moderators in the wake of an employee firing; and ongoing complaints about abusive and offensive comments on some sections.
Another long-standing challenge for the company has been bringing its text-heavy content streams to a mobile-friendly environment. Until recently, Redditors had to rely on third-party apps to access the site from their mobile devices.
That changed in some ways in 2014, when Reddit launched an app for its popular "Ask Me Anything" Q&A feature and purchased the third-party iOS app Alien Blue. But the company never released an official in-house app for viewing all of its content on smartphones and tablets -- until now.
About 3,000 test participants were chosen out of 45,000 applicants, based on a number of factors, including user behavior, device type, and OS version, a Reddit spokesperson told us in an e-mail.
"Our team is currently hard at work on Reddit for iOS, which will serve as the new official Reddit client on that platform," the spokesperson said. "We’ll be taking some of the best of Alien Blue and incorporating new features and a fresh new design to make the new app the best way to access Reddit on iOS. We’ll have more to share soon."
Mobile 'Continues To Be a Priority'
In an announcement titled "Reddit in 2016," Huffman (pictured above) described some of the challenges the company faced last year, noting that spam and abuse continue to be problems on some of the site's communities.
"We are still in transition, but you should feel the impact of the change more as we progress," he noted. "We know we have a lot to do here."
Another aspect of helping Reddit look forward, will be finding ways to enable the company to live up to its potential, Huffman said.
"Whether you access it from your desktop, a mobile browser, or a native app, we will work to make the Reddit product more engaging," he said. "Mobile, in particular, continues to be a priority for us."
Reddit had posted an Android beta sign-up page on Typeform, but a recent page update noted that sign ups were now closed.
Look for Improvements to Front-Page Algorithm
In response to online questions posted by users after his announcement, Huffman also revealed that one of Reddit's first employees -- Chris Slowe, who uses the Reddit name KeyserSosa -- has returned to the organization to help it overcome some of the ongoing conflicts among various moderators and community members.
"We're seeing the effects of a bunch of people who have wildly differing viewpoints crammed into a small room," Huffman said. "My dear friend, first Reddit employee, and smartest guy on the planet, u/KeyserSosa, is hard at work on the problem."
Reddit is also looking into improving its front-page algorithm to change the way it presents default subreddits, Huffman noted. In addition, the company recently built an A/B testing system to test site changes more methodically, and it also aims to address problem behavior from some users with improved reporting and more rules, he said.