NEW YORK (InsideBitcoins) — Former Reddit Cryptocurrency Engineer Ryan X. Charles (a pseudonym) was recently interviewed on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin podcast, and he tried to explain exactly what happened while he was working behind the scenes at “the frontpage of the Internet.” The bitcoin community was excited to hear about the hiring of a cryptocurrency engineer when it was first announced, but it doesn’t seem that Reddit had much of an actual plan when it came to what they were going to do with the digital currency. Charles described a state of turmoil from the day he arrived at the company, and the lack of organization could be blamed for the failure of the reddit notes project.
Crazy times at Reddit
Before he was hired as Reddit’s new cryptocurrency engineer, Charles had a chat with Yishan Wong, who was the CEO at the time. He noted that Wong seemed to understand the potential of bitcoin and how it could “enable the financial infrastructure of Reddit.” Due to Wong’s belief in bitcoin, Charles decided to leave his job at BitPay and start working on cryptocurrency applications for Reddit.
Although the company’s CEO was completely behind finding a way to bring bitcoin to Reddit, that didn’t matter when Wong suddenly quit about a month and half into Charles’s time at the company. The exact reason for Wong’s decision is not known, but he made a post on Quora saying that he was simply exhausted. Charles claims that this explanation is plausible due to all of the turmoil that was going on at Reddit during this time.
It’s important to remember that this was during the time of “The Fappening”, and Reddit was under a lot of pressure to censor the private pictures of celebrities that were being posted all over their website. Charles claimed that there were employees at the company on both sides of the argument. In addition to that, Reddit was also attempting to move their remote employees to San Francisco. This turned out to be a rather problematic venture due to the fact that — by Charles’s estimation — two-thirds of Reddit’s employees were based somewhere other than San Francisco. Charles also described the fact that there were different “tribes” in the company, which led to difficulties when those different factions had to collaborate. In short, there was simply a lot of crazy activity going on at Reddit that could have led to Wong’s exhaustion.
Reddit notes vs simple bitcoin integration
As mentioned before, there wasn’t really a clear plan of what Reddit was going to do with bitcoin when Charles first arrived. When asked about the initial plans for bitcoin integration at Reddit, Charles responded:
“It was all very, very abstract. We didn’t narrow down an idea. That was what we were going to figure out once I joined. We were going to figure out what to do after I got there.”
Charles later admitted, “We never really narrowed it down.”
Although what Reddit would eventually do with cryptocurrency was not completely clear, it did seem that the possibilities were narrowed down to two major options. Having said that, one of those options seemed to be thrust upon Charles as soon as he joined the company. He noted:
“When I joined on what was for me day number two at the company, they announced that they raised $50 million, and that of this $50 million they’re going to give — or of the $50 million in shares that the investors had purchased — they wanted to give 10% of those new shares back to the Reddit community in the form of a cryptocurrency that was backed by the shares [..] I didn’t actually know about that particular project. I joined more for the general big picture vision of the potential of this technology at Reddit but with no concrete plan.”
While Charles was more interested in bringing bitcoin to Reddit as a vehicle for payments and tips between users, this concept of creating a crypto-stock is what grabbed headlines as soon as it was publicly announced. Throughout the interview, Charles routinely referenced the fact that he was more interested in the simple, basic aspects of bitcoin as a payment system than the so-called “bitcoin 2.0” platforms. He was able to explain that he didn’t keep these feelings to himself:
“Right away I told [CEO] Yishan [Wong] like this is a huge legal nightmare. If you give actual equity to millions of people, it would make Reddit a public company. And Reddit being a normal corporation, we have to follow the law or we’re going to have problems. We can’t just give shares to a million people without filing as a public company with the SEC and following all of the laws that implies — including things like gathering people’s social security numbers and whatever. It would be very, very legally difficult to do this and almost incompatible with the technology.”
Even with those reservations about issuing Reddit stock on the blockchain, Charles noted that the company was dedicated to solving the legal issues surrounding the new concept. He even thought that Reddit could eventually succeed at dealing with all of the legal complications. Having said that, he still attempted to direct the game plan towards bitcoin as a payment option for Reddit users rather than a platform for issuing equity in the company. He ended up working on the two project simultaneously.
The end of cryptocurrency at Reddit
Eventually, new executives — including the return of Founder Alexis Ohanian — were brought in to replace Yishan Wong and reorganize the company in early December. The new executives then put together a plan of action for Reddit in 2015, which barely mentioned bitcoin, reddit notes, or cryptocurrency at all. Although Charles continued to work on his projects for a short period of time, he was eventually let go from the company in late January after being told that bitcoin is not in the company’s plans at this time. Charles was actually planning a company-wide presentation on bitcoin right before he was told the bad news.
Although Reddit no longer has any imminent plans to bring cryptocurrency to their platform, Charles noted, “They haven’t decided never to do this.” Overall, he is still bullish on use cases for bitcoin on Reddit, but he isn’t sure how or when it will happen. As always, Charles seemed more excited about a simple use of bitcoin for Reddit than anything else when he stated:
“Reddit is still — and I still believe — it’s a very, very appropriate platform for bitcoin. I think that there’s enormous potential to bring payments between people on a pseudonymous platform like Reddit without having to worry about signing up for an account, without having to worry about giving out your personal social security number and stuff like that.”
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