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Reddit is launching built-in subreddit chat rooms

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Reddit is launching built-in subreddit chat rooms

It’s a new way for users to bond over shared interests



Reddit is introducing a new chat room tool, in a throwback to the old days of the internet when those were a thing. The feature, called “Start Chatting,” will randomly sort users of popular subreddits into small, private group chats. Reddit says the feature is rolling out to around 16,000 SFW subreddits this week.


To use the feature, you’ll want to visit a popular subreddit that has the feature enabled. You’ll see a button labeled “Start Chatting” beneath the community’s description.


Click that, and you’ll be randomly matched with a small group of up to seven other users who are also in the subreddit. The group will be entered into a chat room for private discussion and meme-ing.




Reddit isn’t the only platform increasing its focus on chat. Facebook revealed earlier this year that its vision has shifted to prioritize its messaging services, including WhatsApp and Messenger, as the majority of new users show low interest in Facebook’s traditional website and mobile app. Last week, the company released Messenger Rooms, a video-chat service for groups of up to 50 people. It also doubled the capacity of WhatsApp’s video calls and added the functionality to Facebook Dating. Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent blog post that Facebook hopes to make Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Messenger interoperable with SMS.


These are tools to help you stay in touch, though; what’s unique about Reddit’s service is that it’s focused on forming new connections. It seems like a smart idea — plenty of folks would probably love to develop close connections with other Reddit users, but might be wary of reaching out themselves. And while the random chat rooms of internets past often led to awkward (or creepy) experiences, the fact that Start Chatting takes place in a subreddit means participants already have a shared interest and an easy conversation topic. At a time when in-person opportunities to make friends are limited, this could be a fun way to form virtual contacts.


Reddit has experimented with private group messaging in the past. The platform tested community-wide chat rooms in 2018, but it wasn’t a huge success; most of them weren’t particularly active, and many had their share of jerks and spammers that you’d expect from a quasi-anonymous online community. Whether this new iteration sees greater success may depend on if Reddit can effectively moderate chat rooms’ content while still letting users feel comfortable expressing themselves.


In a statement to The Verge, a Reddit spokesperson said that chat rooms will be moderated by Reddit admins.We have a number of safety tools built into the feature and have integrated our general reporting flow, so users can report any messages or policy-violating content within the group chat,” the spokesperson said.



Source: Reddit is launching built-in subreddit chat rooms (The Verge)

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Reddit removes chat room feature after one day due to site-wide bug

The company says the rollout had several errors

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Remember how Reddit announced just yesterday that it was introducing built-in subreddit chat rooms? Yeah, never mind on that.


Alex Le, Reddit’s vice president of product and community, said on Thursday in multiple comments that the feature has been “rolled back 100%.” Le said that the platform “made several errors” in the process of releasing the function (called “Start Chatting”) and apologized for the confusion the rollout caused. One bug, in particular, caused the button to appear on all subreddits, even in the event it didn’t do anything when clicked or tapped.


“If you dismiss the banner in 3 communities where the feature is active on desktop web or android, then the small button you’re seeing appears on all communities. But importantly, for all support communities, the button does nothing. Your users could never enter chats for this feature even in the rare case they saw the button,” Le wrote. “We are actively fixing this now. The feature is being rolled back in a matter of a few hours and the button will be removed.”


The announcement comes after a slew of Redditors protested the introduction of the “Start Chatting” button to their communities. Reddit initially said that the feature would roll out to around 50 percent of SFW subreddits to start and that companies “particularly vulnerable to abuse” would not be included.


However, subreddit moderators were not given the opportunity to opt out and did not have oversight to run the chat rooms, according to their community rules, with the responsibility going to Reddit’s own administrators instead. A number of moderators protested Reddit’s approach and criticized it for putting subreddits, especially those that give voices to victims of sexual assault and other vulnerable communities, at risk by potentially opening up chat features to trolls and those eager to commit fraud or abuse.


“As Moderators, we are unpaid volunteers who work to build a community which reflects our values and vision,” wrote a moderator of r/AskHistorians in a message to Reddit admins. “In the past, we have always been promised control over shaping that community by the site Admins, and despite missteps at points, it is a promise we have trusted. Clearly we were wrong to do so, as this has broken that trust in a far worse way than any previous undesired feature the Admins have thrust upon us.”


A moderator of r/personalfinance and r/Debt also requested that both subreddits be removed: “We already have major problems with scammers using chat and PMs to swindle people who are already in financial crisis and we can’t even get Reddit to ban those people after repeated reports (not that it would be hard for someone to change accounts considering that it takes weeks or months for reports to be examined). Even our unofficial IRC chatroom is better moderated than anything that is possible on Reddit.”


Le stated that Reddit received largely positive feedback from early tests of the chat room feature. “Please keep in mind that many users are using the feature and enjoying it, and these people are not always the ones who will share their feedback in comment threads,” Le wrote.


His comment also notes that Reddit plans to alter Start Chatting’s interface to make the feature more distinct from its affiliated subreddit, and will allow moderators to remove the button from their communities.


Reddit confirmed to The Verge that it disabled the feature. “Given the issues and concerns expressed by our users and moderators throughout the last 24 hours, we’ve made the decision to disable Start Chatting so we can reassess our rollout plan and evolve the product to meet the needs of our community,” a Reddit spokesperson says.


Update April 30th, 5:29PM ET: Added confirmation and statement from Reddit on the removal of the chat room feature.



Source: Reddit removes chat room feature after one day due to site-wide bug (The Verge)

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