Forocoches, Menéame and the language: why Reddit, the great US forum, has not succeeded in Spanish | Technology

The social network Reddit went public on March 21 and, for now, its figures are a success. Reddit is consistently one of the top ten traffic pages in the US, with 131 million weekly users, according to company data. In Spain, on the other hand, it is a long way from YouTube, Instagram or even LinkedIn in Google searches over the years. There are several possible explanations for this difference. But above all it is due to the distance between English and the rest of the languages: there are almost the same weekly users worldwide (136 million) as in the US. It is an Anglocentric community.

Reddit is a social network organized into topic forums and based on anonymity. Users gather in millions of communities as disparate and specific as traveling alone, memes, diabetes or hating cars. The moderation of each community is done by volunteers and they create a space where real humans resolve doubts or share concerns. In many Google searches, the most reliable results are often in a Reddit thread. In Spain, the largest community is r/Spain, which is mainly in Spanish, with 657,000 subscribers and which has grown 97% in the last year in subscribers, according to the company. The next two are r/lmdshow and r/ubius, of which streamers Illojuan and Rubius. The company says that humor and video games are the most popular areas in Spain. In Spanish, the largest communities are r/Mexico, r/Argentina and r/fútbol, ​​which has grown 156% in the last 12 months.

With its entry into the stock market, Reddit sees an obvious opportunity for growth: “During the last three months of 2023, approximately 50% of redditors (Reddit users) visited the platform from outside the United States. More than 90% of all Reddit posts were made in English,” the company says in the previous documentation upon its entry into the stock market. That distance between English and non-American users is room for growth. The Spanish market is one of their objectives because they have seen organic growth, the company explains to EL PAÍS, although they do not share total user data. Reddit has three open positions on LinkedIn for Spain: responsible for growth, content and community. It has another 15 positions for Europe although, except for Italy, the majority are technical positions for its Dublin and Amsterdam headquarters.

Despite all this recent development, Reddit was founded in 2005: a year after Facebook, the same year as YouTube, and a year before Twitter. It has had plenty of years to conquer international markets, like its competitors. Why has it not been done in the Spanish case? These are some of the causes.

1. Forocoches and Menéame: Spain already had its forums

Forocoches is the largest forum in Spanish in the world. It was born in 2003, two years before Reddit. Its founder, Alex Marín Ilitriand Edu, who runs marketing and business, believe that habit is key to their success: “Spain is very customary and Forocoches in the end is not just a community, but a bit the internet bar in Spain, so no matter how much a new bar comes to the neighborhood, in the end the old bar is the one that will continue to succeed because it is the one that understands the country, the one that is embedded in the culture. In addition, we are already full of social networks, American and Chinese, which makes the forum feel even more from here”they say.

Although there are many differences, the Spanish internet user who seeks advice and opinions from other people already finds that in Forocoches. Its users and communities are less diverse than those of Reddit and there is hardly any moderation, but it covers part of that space: “My hypothesis is that Forocoches performs the function of Reddit in Spanish,” says Clara Juárez, a researcher at the University of Vienna. “It is true that there are messages with intolerant content, but there are also many that are not. It also performs that function of consulting room. In my research I found that the participants of Reddit and Forocoches, despite the trolls, see in both a similar feeling of community and support,” he adds.

Precisely in 2005, Menéame emerged in Spain. It is a platform that allows you to vote for articles. Reddit also has that function: each post receives votes and those with the most are arranged on another page that Reddit called “the front page of the internet.” That’s what Menéame did specifically, according to Ricardo Galli, its founder: “When I launched Menéame in December 2005, Digg (a US platform that focused on voting) was more popular and no one knew Reddit. But many things below Meneáme were more similar to Reddit. There are many things that I implemented in Menéame that were from Reddit,” he says.

Forocoches, Menéame and other forums like Cotilleando occupied a space that Reddit never sought to conquer outside the United States in those years. And then Twitter arrived: “Our competition and fear was Twitter in those years,” Galli recalls.

These similarities have one big exception on Reddit: the moderators. Reddit has thousands of volunteers who encourage conversation and control what and how they talk about each subreddit or community. That makes it a different project, although obviously Reddit has also had toxic communities with permissive moderators. Reddit has had its share of controversial cases involving Nazis or stalkers and the company has had to intervene.

Even so, it is a different page: “Reddit is a very different community from spaces like Forocoches, Meneáme or Twitter,” says Natalia, who has moderated several important communities in Spanish for a decade under the name “un_redditor.” “Those of us who moderate do so for personal motivations. We want a better moderated space, free of discrimination and without misinformation. No other platform moderates well, because platforms want to maximize traffic. Decency is prioritized here. If you want an echo chamber, go to Twitter. If you want toxicity and misinformation, visit Forocoches or Burbuja(.)info. We don’t tolerate those things here,” she says.

2. Everything is in English

If someone happened to stumble on Reddit, everything was in English. It was another big problem. “Reddit has always had a big obstacle due to language. Before, only Spaniards who knew English participated,” says Natalia.

In late 2023, Reddit announced that its recommendation system of new communities to subscribe to was going to be based on the user’s location and local trends: Bollywood and cricket in India, Champions League in Germany and the Paris Masters in France. Before it was global and English predominated.

The problem was not only the language, but also the cultural focus: “The nature of Reddit was much more editorial and less social than other large networks,” says Antonio Ortiz, technology analyst at Error500. “One came to Reddit with a very Anglo content agenda,” he adds.

Natalia highlights that the moderators are trying to “recover” communities for locals, like the citizens of a tourist city who recover a square for their use and kick out the tourists: “Communities that do not allow content in English grow a lot. I moderate r/Barcelona where we decide to send tourist content to ar/AskBarcelona to recover the community for local content. Until recently it was a community mainly for expatriates, but participation in Spanish and Catalan has grown. Or r/Tenerife was for guiris and now it is a unique site with memes from residents and conversations that do not exist anywhere else,” says Natalia.

3. The company had not done its best

In 2014, Podemos’ famous sectoral and geographic circles were organized on Reddit, in something called Plaza Podemos. It was a different project, but it didn’t take off and the company wasn’t very interested either: “At the time it was used because there was no other software that allowed this type of open and decentralized participation in such a simple way,” says Miguel Arana, today a professor of Cranfield University (United Kingdom) and then involved in this task at Podemos. “It was a phase fifteenmayist, with many people giving their opinion. Although these tools were centralized for something pragmatic,” says Julián Macías, who was later in charge of networks at Podemos.

Reddit made more concrete attempts to land in Europe. Ortiz remembers meetings with people from the platform about three years ago: “They were contacting European media groups because they were going to launch versions in Europe and they wanted to have their support: a comment system integrated with Reddit or integrating share buttons on Reddit and they paid you something. It was very exploratory and just as it came it left. I heard echoes that they saw that Europe was very complicated, each country with its language, with its legislation apart from the European framework,” explains Ortiz. And since then, little more. Now the company seems to be trying again.

4. It has its own rules that complicate it

Reddit has its own tone, routines, jokes and trivia. It happens on all networks, but posting a photo or tweet for everyone to see is easier than finding a community and saying something specific.

“Reddit requires specific skills,” says Ariadna Matamoros, a professor at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology. “There is its own culture with implicit rules, and you are a bit stupid if you are not aware of the platform’s rules. This is also a barrier,” she adds.

Thus, while other indigenous forums already covered that need and in Spanish, there was not much need to take the risk. Now Reddit hopes to gain space.

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