Reeddit, 6 Years OldPublished on
6 years ago today, I gathered the courage to put Reeddit out there. To share it with other people. It was my first serious attempt at building a complete, frontend-only web-app.
Reeddit is basically an alternative way to browse reddit.com’s content. While I love to read and browse reddit.com, I never really liked their UI- specially on their mobile site, which was really cumbersome and ugly, at least back then.
So this was, in my mind, the perfect way to address those things: I would design and build the reddit UI that I’d love to use, and by doing so, I would learn as much as I could about what frontend development really was, learn the proper foundation— JS included.
In the span of ~5 months, working a couple of hours every week after work and a bit more each weekend, I built a responsive, single-page web-app for just reading reddit. And by doing so, I had learnt so, so much about building things for the browser; how to tame the DOM (thanks to jQuery/Zepto!) and the Cascade, the Box Model, how to use Flexbox (so shiny and new back then!). And I had more or less built the alternative reddit client that I wanted.
But that was supposed to be it! I built it for me. So I could use it myself. I didn't consider publishing it on the web— not initially.
But after showing what I had done so far to a friend from work, he told me "you should put it out there! It's nice!", to which I said that wasn't in my plans because I didn't think it was good enough for people to use it and much less like it. And then he said "if you already find it useful or good for yourself, there will be others who will agree and use it as well".
And that made me realize: if there was a single person who finds Reeddit, uses it, likes it, and continues using it, that'd be a huge satisfaction for me. Enough of a reward.
So for a couple of days I worked on making Reeddit a bit more "presentable", and made sure it worked fine in all the browsers I had installed, which were desktop and mobile Safari, Chrome, Opera, and Firefox.
I considered also showing it to Hacker News, but decided not to because I thought it was definitely not HN-worthy and that it would be shat upon if I did share it there. So I didn't. Silly me.
The reception on twitter and reddit was pretty much what I expected and hoped; people gave me good feedback, suggestions, and compliments. It was great. It felt good to share what I had worked on and to see it being well-received. I figured the cycle was complete. That the project was over as it had served its original purpose.
But it was far from over.
Less than 2 months later, during the first week of January 2013, someone :) shared Reeddit on Hacker News, and I only found out about it because after waking up that morning, I saw I was getting a lot notifications from people making tweets about Reeddit! All because of the weird machine that is Hacker News top posts.
So, I learned that there's a bunch of twitter bots that automatically tweet when a HN post receives certain amount of votes; here's reeddit getting 50 votes and here's reeddit getting 100 votes. And I guess people that follows these bots started reacting to those tweets and checking and tweeting about Reeddit. Then HN's post reached the top 2 spot on the frontpage.
And then it quickly reached the top of HackerNews' frontpage. Gulp.
The buzz generated by HN and Twitter was picked up by some big websites:
- Designmodo tweeted about Reeddit.
- Venture Beat published an article and tweeted about Reeddit.
- Mashable published a video article about Reddit — although the actual video doesn't seem to work anymore. Boo.
And best of all, Alexis Ohanian himself tweeted about Reeddit.
It was crazy.
Those were a very awesome couple of days. It made the whole thing so incredibly rewarding. Much more than it already was.
But it was not over.
Even after the online buzz faded out, I learned of another benefit from it; I started getting approached by a few companies that were interested on me joining them as a frontend developer. One of them was a big one, and I couldn't believe it. And even though none of those worked out –as I would have had to move to a city I didn't really want to– the fact there was interest in my profile as frontend developer gave me the confidence to persue that path completely, and apply for Frontend Dev jobs in Amsterdam, which is what I really wanted.
Very fittingly, while using Reeddit myself one day and browsing the Amsterdam subreddit, I stumbled upon a post from someone sharing a job opening in the city, to which I replied with interest. Long (sub)story short, it was the experience and knowledge that I got from building Reeddit, and the confidence that its reception got gave me, what ultimately resulted and me getting a great job and moving to Amsterdam.
Afterwards, I continuously used Reeddit as my code playground, trying new things while fixing its bugs or adding new features, experimenting with new frameworks or libraries, or just applying the new things I'd learned at work. I believe I learned Sass/SCSS by migrating Reeddit's styles to it.
Reeddit has also received some open-source contributions during these years, which has always made so happy, humble, and very thankful, and has inspired me to give back— even though I don't do it as much as I should.
But it's been a while since I've done any work on Reeddit. I still love the product, but I feel like I've moved on from the codebase.
For almost 2 years now, I haven't really improved Reeddit. It got an improvement some weeks ago via a Pull Request on GitHub (yay open source!) but that's been pretty much it since years.
And it's actually a great feeling to see something you haven't had to support for a long time is still working fine. Of course, that's partially also thanks to Reddit itself not breaking its public API and to a very stable GitHub Pages service. But it's ultimately a testament to how wonderful The Web as a platform really is. How things that haven't been touched for years are still perfectly usable and accessible. I love it and don't take it for granted.
And I will try to make sure that my now-6-year-old Reeddit web-app stays usable and accessible in the future; but it's time to officially feature-freeze Reeddit.
It's time to move on.
To Reeddit 2.
- The first improvement to Reeddit after releasing it was done just around 30 minutes after sharing it on reddit and getting the suggestion to show previews for image posts, in the comments view.
- For some time at the beginning of the published codebase, all the JS code was wrapped in a single jQuery/Zepto
- Firefox had no support for Flexbox back then, so I had to do some sort of browser detection and use Floats instead. Yikes.
- Reeddit's UI was inspired by HNMobile, now known as HackerWeb, by @cheeaun. When I used HNMobile for the first time on my iPhone 4S, I remember being blown away by the fact a web-app could look and feel so smooth and native.
- Yes, I'm building a new version of Reeddit!
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