For a long time I’ve been a member of reddit.com, which is a fairly popular blog of sorts, but recently I’ve started to wonder if it hasn’t jumped the shark and entered its natural period of decline.
I’m not usually a big fan of the whole “is this what this site has become” whines, and this isn’t going to be a note about how the content used to be so much better than it is now (although one may say that such naysayers have a point, what with imgur.com now practically being the most prominent source of links). The site has grown tremendously and recruited users from outside its traditional scientist/engineer base to become more of a general content site, although it does have its overall tendencies, viz. atheism and political liberalism.
That being said, over the past few months it seems that the site is succumbing to its own success. Site performance is generally marginal, and during busy times you’re disturbingly likely to get a 502 error page instead of the comments page you wanted. The search functionality, which was never one of the site’s strengths, is now basically unusable; when doing a search you’re most likely to get the message that reddit is “under heavy load”. Likewise when you attempt to check your unread messages, you often end up with the picture of the reddit alien sweating while carrying a big object on his back (get it? “under heavy load”? harharhar). And of course there has recently been a bit of outright downtime.
The problem is that this just isn’t supposed to happen, not for a site which prides itself on its tech-heavy roots, and especially not for a site which has been acquired by a large corporation. Availability issues are understandable for sites such as this one, which do not have a server farm available to accommodate an excess of requests; but in reddit’s case it’s owned by CondÃ©-Nast, a company with a lot of resources at its disposal. The site has had a few upgrade-related outages in the not-too-distant past. It would appear that the upgrades did not really resolve the underlying issues. It would seem that reddit doesn’t scale as well as its owners think it does.
At the same time it’s not like demand for sites such as reddit is showing signs of abating. The site’s pageviews have grown 1200% since January 2009 (acc. to Alexa) and over 10% in the past three months. So reddit’s capacity problems, it seems, are only going to get worse with time, especially given that they can’t really cope now. Which is really odd for a site whose membership could once be relied on to say that they knew 20 programming languages and “only” used 5 or 6 on a regular basis…