Reddit Loses Strategic Interest In Bitcoin

February 1, 2015 13:22 UTC

Recently it was announced by Ryan X. Charles on the Bitcoin subreddit that he had been let go from his position at Reddit. Ryan worked as the resident cryptocurrency expert at Reddit. He was hired directly by former CEO Yishan Wong and until Wong quit the company in November, at which point Charles formally had no boss. The firing is important to Bitcoiners because it represents a blow when one of the largest properties on the Internet expresses a lack of confidence in Bitcoin by firing employees expressly tasked with implementing it.

“I wanted to build the infrastructure for reddit’s cryptofinancial system. This sounds a little bit ridiculous in hindsight because the new leadership is so uninterested in bitcoin that I think something like that is not going to happen for a long time,” Charles wrote in response to a speculative Reddit post which put forward the idea that Charles was friends with Wong and once Wong left, he was exposed for spending his timing working on software “unrelated to” Reddit’s business model. A threadbare accusation at best, given there is no evidence that Wong and Charles ever knew each other, but Charles was gracious enough to turn the post into an AMA (ask me anything) about his work at Reddit.

“We Launched Nothing and I Got Fired”

Ryan X. Charles is a well-respected developer who has chosen to dedicate most of his efforts to cryptocurrency-related projects over the past years. Luckily for everyone including him, the work he did at Reddit doesn’t have to go down the memory hole. The code was open source all along and is available on Github. On this matter, Charles said:

It needed to be open-source, both because I think that this was the best strategy for reddit and bitcoin, and also because it was the best strategy for me personally. I figured the worst thing that could happen at reddit was that we could launch something and it would fail. What actually happened was that we launched nothing and I got fired. In only 4 months. This was worse than the worst outcome I thought was possible.

On the thread, it was suggested that Charles could have taken the time to navigate the new office politics to secure his position. In hindsight, he agrees with this assessment but is quick to point out that the new leadership simply isn’t hot on Bitcoin the way his old boss was. The impact that Reddit fully embracing Bitcoin could have on the currency’s proliferation cannot be understated. The boost in usage and curiosity would be astronomical.

What Happened to Reddit Notes?

For a long time, there was speculation that Reddit would release its own cryptocurrency, but the departure of Yishan Wong and now the firing of a key developer seem to point in the other direction. Since it seems that Ryan would have been able to continue his work for Reddit if Wong had stuck around, it is pertinent to know why he quit. No great mystery there, though, just simple fatigue, according to his response to that very question on Quora.

The one effort the company has announced in the direction of its own virtual currency related to a thing called Reddit Notes. Charles implies that this is still a real project at Reddit, but he didn’t offer much else as to its progress. “I will be happy to share the nitty gritty details at some point in the future, but right now they are internal secrets and reddit as a company will figure out what type of announcements to make about that project. Once reddit announces things and the stuff I know is no longer secret, I will happily talk about it,” he said.

Did Charles Spend Too Much Time Pursuing His Own Interests?

Several people on Reddit expressed the belief that Ryan’s pursuits were not in the interest of the company and this is why he was fired. The fact that he spent such a great deal of time working on a Bitcoin node implemented in javascript is repeatedly pointed to. The authors of these comments say that no one is going to need such a thing. Charles very clearly believed the node would add value to the overall project of the Reddit wallet, potentially by being able to deploy the nodes quickly on Reddit servers and guarantee connectivity for Reddit wallets. Further, he said, “consider the implications of making p2p payments possible on the world’s largest pseudonymous communication platform. It had the potential to play a large role in the global economy.” Throughout his comments he makes clear that he believes this is only a temporary diversion for Reddit, and that eventually the company will see the light.

The future of Bitcoin at Reddit is now anyone’s guess. Bitcoin is still the only accepted cryptocurrency for Reddit purchases such as Gold memberships, but it seems that for now the idea of a wider implementation is off the table. Bitcoiners can only hope that the new leadership will, in an honest assessment of the company’s value, determine that a complete embrace of cryptocurrency will be a good move for the company’s future.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock and reddit user mach0.

Show comments