Reddit, the "front page of the internet", is about to catch up with the rest of the internet with a slick redesign, thanks to $US200 million ($250 million) in new venture funding.
The news aggregation and discussion site is now worth $US1.8 billion ($2.2 billion) after receiving funding from investment firms Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, as well as Fidelity Investments, Y Combinator President Sam Altman, angel investor Ron Conway, and other investors.
The news comes from a Recode report, which also reveals that Reddit is funnelling some of that money into a redesign. Recode says it got a peek at the new site, and described it as "a never-ending feed of content broken up into 'cards' with more visuals to lure people into the conversations hidden underneath".
Reporter Kurt Wagner also said the design looks similar to Twitter's Timeline and Facebook's News Feed. Reddit did not respond to a request for comment on the new design.
The look and feel of Reddit hasn't changed much since it first launched in 2005. This dedication to the original design is one of the main reasons that Reddit has retained its core community and user trust. According to analysis from MIT Technology Review, Reddit's refusal to evolve with the rest of the internet prevented the site from going the way of Digg, which launched months before Reddit but struggled to retain users amidst multiple relaunches.
But now it seems Reddit is ready to retool the site so it can appeal to a wider, mainstream audience. "Reddit feels old. We don't want to be associated with old," CEO Steve Huffman told Recode. "We want Reddit to be more visually appealing... so when new users come to Reddit they have a better sense of what's there, what it's for."
Additionally, Reddit is working on a new feature that will allow users to upload videos. The funding is also helping Reddit grow its team. The company began 2017 with 140 employees and has since grown to 230. Huffman said he plans to hire 70 more by the end of the year.
Huffman co-founded Reddit with Alexis Ohanian and sold the site to the Condé Nast media empire in 2007, about a year after launching. Huffman returned as CEO in 2015 after an angry user revolt led to the ouster of Ellen Pao. But Huffman has had a difficult time regaining the trust of the Reddit community, and is often criticised in many corners of Reddit — particularly on r/The_Donald, where he was caught editing comments.
Since re-joining the company, Huffman has been trying to modernise the site and make it more profitable. Reddit was late to mobile, and didn't launch its app until early 2016. But Huffman said that while only 20 per cent of Reddit's traffic is mobile, it accounts for 50 per cent of the time users spend on the site. The site also began rolling out a new social profile feature in March.
Considering the negative response to past changes, the core community probably isn't going to be thrilled about the beautification of Reddit.