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Reddit Plans to Support Useful Bot Developers Mucking About on Its Platform

The web forum said it would be creating a waitlist for third-party developers to get their hands on an upcoming toolkit.

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A phone bearing Reddit's logo in front of a screen showing the NBA reddit page.
Reddit is in the process of adding support for third-party bot developers on its platform.
Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP (Getty Images)

Reddit, the centralized online forum, has been coasting along well-traveled roads for a long time. The jalopy’s been maintained well, but it’s never been given a true fresh coat of paint. Now, the company behind the social ranking site has plans to let certain users open up the old girl’s hood to add some aftermarket parts to really get a sense what the beast is truly capable of.

In a Wednesday blog post, Reddit said there are already a good few users creating useful bots and extensions, so they might as well make it easy for them by offering them developer-created tools. Any extensions created using the so-called Reddit Development Platform will then be available to moderators and the community at large. They now have a wait list for anybody with the knowledge and skills to reach in and mess around.

The social company said that while third-party developers on Reddit already create their own moderator tools and bots, they’re as “siloed resources for the communities they care about, utilizing limited resources and ad-hoc support.” The Reddit developers said they’re including tools that will add “flexibility and performance” in their new suite.

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The company pointed to existing bots like tweet posters that detect Twitter links and then comments with them, or the RemindMeBot that will automatically let you know of events you scheduled. Apparently, it works about as well as a digital time capsule, reminding you to click a link years ahead of now. There’s bots that help people with colorblindness. There’s even bots that help take care of other, constantly spamming bots.

Though as much as these tools promise greater ease for third parties, there’s still the question of whether they also might allow bad actors to mess around too much. In a Reddit thread from earlier this year, Chief Product Officer Pali Bhat said they were trying to work with third-party developers “while safeguarding the security and privacy of people on the platform.” According to TechCrunch, Reddit’s team wants to keep the beta numbers “modest” to see how things go before opening it up to a wider audience later this year.

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It’s been a long time coming, but considering it took the company until this year to bring GIFs or (sigh) NFTs to the platform, some ideas obviously move slower than others over at Reddit HQ. Still, it is a rare sight to see a social site going out of its way to actually facilitate user-created features like the before-mentioned bots. Compared to the closed off nature of other sites (which can’t figure out how to handle their own bots), Reddit seems to be making a move akin to some of the (more open) game developers when they offer modding tools that allow players to tinker with their products.

It’s a real blast from the past, harkening back to the earlier days of the internet when scrappy coders and moders made their own content that other users happily perused on sites like Newgrounds (long before Flash was given the final sleep a few years back).