Steve Hoffman was 21 years old when he launched Reddit in 2005, a social network that today is one of the most popular in the world. For Forbes France, the latter shares his insights on the current state of social networks, the ways envisaged to ensure the sustainability of Reddit and the opportunities that Web3 can offer.
We met last March during Blockchain Week in Paris, at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris last March… Why is Reddit interested in blockchain?
We have an internal team that has been working on these topics for a long time and the values of this ecosystem align with those we stand for in terms of decentralization and transparency. But our desire is not just to address “crypto enthusiasts” but rather to aim for greater adoption of the Web3 movement.
So we launched our NFT buying and selling platform just one year ago and we already have more than 9 million users. It’s more than OpenSea, the most popular platform in the field. We’ve also created a bunch of NFT incarnations that have been very successful. These avatars, called Vaults, have been imagined by artists who have been able to sell their creations through our platform.
Do you believe in the coming of the Metaverse?
I believe in the early promises of the Internet to connect people around the world. This can be done in the 2D world – like in our exchange spaces on Reddit – but also in 3D worlds like World of Warcraft or Fortnite. It can also go through VR headsets because I think this is also part of the internet. Indeed, Reddit was indeed a metaverse ahead of its time, but with a deliberately simple user interface.
Cryptocurrencies, which are part of this Web3 movement, also bring their share of abuses and are increasingly being featured…
Yes, blockchain and cryptocurrency are revolutionary in my opinion but they also have risks, especially in terms of money laundering. Their reputation has been tarnished by companies with poor ethics and our role is precisely to show what this technology can do for the future.
Platforms like us are not looking to make money from fraud and it is true that some are taking advantage of the blockchain to engage in illegal practices. We do everything we can – in cooperation with the competent authorities – to prevent these risks. Many good and bad regulations have been adopted to better regulate practices, but we are still far from it. My biggest fear may be that countries will simply start blocking when they should be better regulating them.
Many antitrust fronts are emerging around the world – and especially in Europe – to limit the monopoly of large platforms… Do these systems risk impeding freedom of expression in your view?
I do not think that freedom of expression or opinion is linked to antitrust considerations. I’m still “technically perfect” and happy to celebrate all the antitrust proceedings going on. The new rules adopted in Europe are in place to protect the consumer. It is necessary but also complex because we must ensure that it does not hinder innovation.
The European Commission also advised major platforms to refer moderation activity to an independent and impartial authority. Do you agree with this idea?
From my point of view, the most important thing is that moderation is not guaranteed only by users, nor only by an algorithm based on the popularity of the content it analyzes. Both automatic detection of unwanted or obscene content — like child pornography, for example — as well as human moderation should be provided. It does not matter whether there is a third and independent actor involved in the process.
The economic model of social networks does not look good at the moment and all platforms are looking for extra income like paid offers (eg Twitter Blue)… What is your analysis of this?
The digital advertising market is expected to reach $850 billion in 2023. Its growth is directly related to the state of the economy in general. If markets grow, advertising naturally benefits. So we are currently witnessing a slight slowdown which is directly related to the context of recession and instability in recent months.
All platforms want to better predict the future of their business in terms of their turnover. This is why some of them are exploring new economic models and the subscription model is proving to be very effective. This new trend does not mean that the advertising market is in decline, but rather it is above all an awareness of the need to adopt a diversification strategy to become more flexible. .
The US government recently asked TikTok to separate from its parent company, Bytedance… What do you think? Is it legitimate for a country to make this type of request?
I’m very much in favor of selling TikTok but I also think that’s not the biggest problem. The extent of social networking to date is unprecedented and some excesses escape it. Everyone makes mistakes, and for my part, I am glad to see that governments are taking the issue more seriously, without systematically dealing with disapprovals or bans that might infringe on freedom of expression. I have previously been somewhat critical of the practices at Facebook and Twitter, but you also have to keep in mind that these major platforms are making the most of great efforts.
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