The messy business of tech culture as seen through the threads and histrionics of Reddit.
Noted technology journalist and Inc. senior writer Lagorio-Chafkin diligently peels back the layered, tumultuous history of controversial web startup Reddit, which began as a discussion board platform envisioned as “the front page of the Internet.” The author began writing about the online sensation in 2011 after meeting with Reddit’s co-founders Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, friends who met and instantly bonded at the University of Virginia in 2001. Unsure her project’s material would be sufficient for a full-length book, Lagorio-Chafkin amassed a stockpile of firsthand information from scores of interviews with current and former employees, leaked chat logs, and other sources. This surfeit of detail becomes more problematic after the author establishes the tech company’s early origins and “wondrous traffic beast” growth, spurred by Huffman and Ohanian’s keen development of the Reddit theoretical framework alongside Aaron Swartz, a “hacker prodigy with a libertarian bent and a flair for the dramatic.” Once Condé Nast’s 2006 acquisition of the site made young millionaires of the trio, their relationships with each other and with the industry changed. Ohanian’s mother’s death in 2008 radically shifted his perspective. A few years later, Huffman handed over his CEO post to a successor, and Swartz committed suicide after being charged in an MIT wire fraud scandal. More leadership shake-ups would occur within the Reddit executive echelon before both originators returned to the company in 2015 after changes had been made to detoxify the site’s much-abused “user anonymity and almost-anything-goes content policy.” Lagorio-Chafkin captures the ensuing vortex of tech-nerd office politics with a novelistic flair, but her verbosity hijacks some of the excitement of the site’s rise to prominence. Still, die-hard Reddit fans and readers dazzled by the machinations of the technology and web development business will enjoy the hijinks.
A readable, melodramatic treatment of the ascent of a popular internet startup.