VC Fred Wilson: Blockchain based Reddit could emerge

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Unless you happened to have been away from your computer all weekend (literally all weekend), or simply tune out of web news, you almost certainly heard about the Reddit revolt. After Reddit let go of a popular administrator, who acted as a liason between the website and its “mods”, the mods struck back and blacked out huge portions of the website by shutting down “subreddits” (which are basically thematic messaging boards).

Now, prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson believes that a community-driven alternative utilizing Bitcoin’s blockchain technology could emerge. Such an alternative would not need to rely on any centralized authority, and as such it may be better suited for the needs of an online community.

In case you are unfamiliar with Reddit, mods are the volunteer community moderators who essentially handle all of Reddit’s dirty work. From managing communities, to occasionally censoring users and even banning them, mods are the grease within the machine that keeps the whole community operating.

As you can probably guess, they have a lot of power, though they’ve rarely used it against Reddit’s administration. The blackout over the weekend, however, was essentially a massive “general strike” that severely restricted the amount of content being presented on the website. Thousands of users have fled the website, while many more have complained, griped, and protested on various message boards.

In a blog post Wilson explored the notion of whether a community-driven web outlet like Reddit can be properly managed by a centralized authority. After a series of missteps Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has been forced to offer an extensive apology, but it’s fair to wonder if the problem isn’t the website’s current management team, but instead its model of management.

As Wilson puts it “it may be that there is no viable middle ground between a centrally controlled media platform and an entirely decentralized media platform.” Wilson argues that the bitcoin-based blockchain, which could allow the community to support and moderate any content/website itself, could be the answer.

Wilson points to a variety of factors to support his argument, including the simple fact that there are a lot of developers out there now with experience in developing blockchain related technologies. Before bitcoin the blockchain was an almost unheard of concept, now it’s being recognized as one of the most efficient online systems in the world, having essentially supported the creation and expansion of a major non-government international currency.

And certainly, there’s a demand for such an online platform. According to Alexa, Reddit is the top ten most popular website in the United States, and comes in at number 33 worldwide. Reddit gets over 15 million unique visits per month and averages about 150 page views during the same time period. At the same time redditors, as users are called, are incensed over a string of decisions made by the website’s administration. Their anger could create the demand for a viable, community-driven, blockchain-based alternative.

Wilson doesn’t offer much in the details of his vision on how bitcoin’s blockchain could be used to develop an online community similar to Reddit. Heck, Wilson isn’t even sure if such a community would make a good business. But he does believe that the possibility and demand for a blockchain driven online community is very high, and that such a website could pop up in the near future.

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Brian Booker

An international financial analyst and writer. He has consulted for the Malaysian government, various MNC's, and other organisations. He focuses on currencies, commodities, and emerging South East Asian markets.

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