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Break Up: Thoughts On The Reddit/Imgur Split


Systems Guru

The Internet relies on symbiotic relationships to thrive.  Competitors expose interfaces which allow customers to move between their services, and the result is innovation across the board.  Within this frenzy of change, companies are often forced to revisit their core competencies and update their strategy.

Recently, there was an example of this in the surprising breakup between Reddit and Imgur. With Reddit being “the front page of the Internet” and Imgur being a premier online image sharing platform, they are the peas and carrots of the multimedia forum scene.  So together they win, right?  Apparently Reddit has decided that they can win even more by extending their platform to cover services previously sourced by partnership.  The news made me ponder the perspective leaders at Reddit must have had in order to conclude that Reddit’s value could benefit from changing their symbiosis.  A particular quote from Amar Toor’s article jumped out at me:

“…new in-house platform could divert traffic away from Imgur and toward Reddit. According to TechCrunch, the same content policy will apply for the new tool, placing more responsibility on Reddit to police offensive or illegal material — something that the site has struggled with in the past.”

The benefit of driving more traffic to Reddit assets, combined with feature improvements to control illegal materials, outweighs the value generated by the Imgur partnership.

But as the song implies, breaking up is hard to do and, in this case, what does it mean for Internet infrastructure? From a performance perspective, it could mean a lot.  Every layer which contributes to the experience must be considered.  When any of us consider major technology migrations, what are the questions which we must take into account to ensure quality customer experience?  Looking at the impact starting with the customer is a great place to start.

reddit mobileSo, what devices do your customers use?  What platforms, browsers, and apps?  Where are they, and what is their primary means to interact with the Internet and your properties?

What is the rate of content upload?  By topic? By region? What suite of javascript killing ad blocking plugins are going to alter your perfectly orchestrated first byte to rendered DOM symphony?

These behaviors are your brand!

The last thing you would want is to hamper new content getting onto the platform.

How does that end user footprint align with existing infrastructure? Does your choice in data bunkers and cloud providers match? What is the median time to establish a three-way handshake? When a critical provider is in maintenance what happens to that time? The next logical step from here is to gauge the end user proximity to content.

So, what about content distribution?

Combing through millions of RUM (real user monitoring) beacons collecting CDN timing measurements, one can see the fragility of a network that delivers the “I have no idea what I’m doing” dog meme. What is your approach to CDN strategy? How do you prioritize cost vs. speed? Where are you getting information to make an educated decision? Internet Performance Management isn’t “set it and forget it.” It requires continuous monitoring, testing, and tuning because the copper and fiber optic strands of the World Wide Web aren’t created equal.

When your platform is a launch pad for viral content, how does that factor into your approach? Think about Nicki Minaj’s Twerking Pepe and how the “normie content gentrification” war of words starts. Ensuring every aspect of that experience is performing optimally is essential to driving traffic. Set up some A/B testing for images on your site representing content delivery latency variability, and see the impact on page duration for yourself. How many people are willing to wait?

nicki minaj instragramA picture is worth a thousand words, but the right viral meme could be worth much more.  In other words, a thousand words are great but in terms of page views, impressions, and page duration – key drivers of ad revenue – the stakes are much higher.  To drive this home, consider how sensitive these business metrics become in a customer experience where the end user’s attention is so fleeting. If that gif isn’t flowing smoothly, or there is a hiccup rendering it into my favorite Slack channel, then it’s on to the next traffic driving service before you can say “AOL Time Warner Mashup.”

The Internet itself, as a super set of subnets, is proof that relying on core competencies of others is essential to collective growth. In the interest of a smooth transition, it is comforting to see that Imgur will always be welcome on the Reddit platform. Over the next few years, it will be even more interesting to see how this play pays off, for both companies.

Chris Baker is a Systems Guru for Dyn,a cloud-based Internet Performance company that helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. You can hear more from Chris and other Dyn employees by following us on Twitter (@Dyn) or on Facebook.