Reddit Has A New Rival: Meet Voat

In the last several months, Reddit users have watched a dramatic situation unfold in the administration of the site that has been called, “the front page of the internet.” Earlier this year, interim CEO Ellen Pao faced heavy criticism over her decision to ban five popular subreddits, including r/fatpeoplehate. The administration cited a new and vaguely worded anti-harassment policy to explain the decision. Reddit users reacted harshly, in large part because Reddit was originally founded as a platform for free speech, and the new policy was seen as censorship.

Tensions continued to build over several months, but the drama came to a head last month when popular administrator, Victoria Taylor was abruptly fired without any notice to the moderators with whom she worked. Several moderators took action by privatizing parts of Reddit, rendering much of the site unusable for a day in protest. Although Ellen Pao was not directly responsible for Taylor’s firing, and a formal apology was issued, the users of Reddit were incensed. A petition demanding her resignation garnered over 200,000 signatures within days of these events. By the end of the week, Ellen Pao announced her resignation, and despite the announcement that former CEO Steve Huffman would be taking over operations once again, many users were fed up with the social platform.

Enter Voat, a small social news and forum site that is similar to Reddit in function and aesthetics. It was originally started as a side project by student Atif Colo, who received so much feedback from new users about their concerns with Reddit that he was inspired to keep developing the site. His instincts paid off and his once small project has since blossomed into something much larger. The link aggregation site has become a refuge for scorned Reddit users who are fed up with the administration at Reddit. The Site recently had to switch to cloud-based hosting after an influx of new users flooded the site, causing it to crash. Voat’s motto is “have your say,” and the site’s two co-founders have promised never to censor users, making it an ideal haven for former Reddit users looking for a new platform.

Although currently the site is mainly run by its two co-founders part time, they are receiving lots of help from users (similar to volunteer moderators on Reddit), who are passionate about the new free-speech platform. The founders are open to the idea of expanding and are talking to investors, who have taken an interest in the site, but have not publically acknowledged an investment from any major source. The majority of their funding has been in the form of donation. They had a PayPal account set up to that end, but when it was shut down, they made the transition into digital currency. Voats creators currently accept BitCoin and DogeCoin donations to fund the hosting of their site, which has gotten expensive since they made the switch to cloud hosting.

The future is uncertain for this rival to Reddit; with no corporate investors officially on board, only time will tell if they can keep up with massive hosting bills at CloudFare. But what started as a student side project has already weathered many a storm: crashing servers, frozen funds, and no less than three DDoS attacks. The creators of Voat have proven to themselves to be resourceful and dedicated, and above all, determined not to make the same mistakes as Reddit. Such innovation has many wondering: Could Reddit have finally met its match?

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