Steve Huffman

Steve Huffman, also known by his Reddit username spez (/spɛz/), is an American web developer and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Reddit, a social news and discussion website, which ranks in the top 20 websites in the world.[2] He also co-founded the airfare search-engine website Hipmunk.

Steve Huffman
Web Summit 2017 - Centre Stage Day 2 CG1 7885 (38232183112) (cropped).jpg
Huffman at Web Summit 2017
Other namesspez[1]
EducationComputer Science
Alma materUniversity of Virginia
  • Co-founder and CEO of Reddit
  • Co-founder of Hipmunk

Early life and educationEdit

Steve Huffman grew up in Warrenton, Virginia.[3] At age 8, he began programming computers.[3] He graduated in 2001 from Wakefield School in The Plains, Virginia.[4] At the University of Virginia (UVA), he studied computer science, graduating in 2005.[3][5]


During spring break of his senior year at UVA, Huffman and college roommate Alexis Ohanian[1] drove to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend a lecture[6] delivered by programmer-entrepreneur Paul Graham.[1][7] Huffman and Ohanian talked with Graham after the lecture and he invited them to apply to his startup incubator Y Combinator.[1] Huffman came up with their original idea, My Mobile Menu,[7] which was intended to allow users to order food by SMS.[1][7] The idea was rejected, but Graham asked Huffman and Ohanian to meet him in Boston to pitch another idea for a start-up; it was at this brainstorming session that the idea for what Graham called the "front page of the Internet" was created.[1] Huffman and Ohanian were accepted in Y Combinator's first class.[1][7] Huffman programmed the entire site in Lisp.[8][9] He and Ohanian launched Reddit in June 2005, funded by Y Combinator.[5][10]

The site's audience grew rapidly in its first few months, and by August 2005, Huffman noticed their habitual user-base had grown so large that he no longer needed to fill the front page with content himself.[8][11][12] At 23, Huffman and Ohanian sold Reddit to Condé Nast on October 31, 2006, for a reported $10 million to $20 million.[1][13] Huffman remained with Reddit until 2009, when he left his role as acting CEO.[14]

Huffman spent several months backpacking in Costa Rica[15] before co-creating the travel website Hipmunk with Adam Goldstein, an author and software developer, in 2010. Funded by Y Combinator,[16][17] Hipmunk launched in August 2010[18] with Huffman serving as CTO.[19] In 2011, Inc. named Huffman to its 30 under 30 list.[19]

In 2014, Huffman said that his decision to sell Reddit had been a mistake, and that the site's growth had exceeded his expectations.[20] On July 10, 2015, Reddit hired Huffman as CEO following the resignation of Ellen Pao[21] and during a particularly difficult time for the company.[22] Upon rejoining the company, Huffman's top goals included launching Reddit's iOS and Android apps, fixing Reddit's mobile website, and creating A/B testing infrastructure.[1]

Since returning to Reddit, Huffman instituted a number of technological improvements[22] including a better mobile experience and stronger infrastructure, as well as new content guidelines. These included a ban on content that incites violence, quarantining some material users might find offensive, and removing communities "that exist solely to ... make Reddit worse for everyone else".[1][22] Shortly after returning, Huffman wrote that "neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen."[23] In a 2012 interview, Ohanian had used the same phrase to describe Reddit, as noted by The New Yorker and The Verge.[15][24]

Huffman also worked to make the site more advertiser-friendly[1][22] and led efforts to host video and images on site.[25] In late 2016, Huffman was the focus of controversy for altering posts on a subreddit popular with supporters of Donald Trump, /r/The Donald. Following criticism from Reddit users, he undid the change and issued an apology.[26] Beginning in 2017, Huffman led the redesign of Reddit's website with its first major visual update in a decade.[27][28] Huffman said the site had looked like a "dystopian Craigslist" whose outdated look deterred new users.[27] Development of the new site took more than a year, and the redesign launched in April 2018.[27]

In 2020, Fortune magazine included him in their '40 Under 40' listing in the technology category.[29]

Controversies and criticismEdit

Comment modification controversyEdit

On November 23, 2016, a member of a subreddit dedicated to Donald Trump, /r/The Donald, posted evidence indicating that Reddit administrators had modified multiple user comments inside the subreddit.[30] Following this post, Huffman took responsibility for the comment modifications, writing that "Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won't do this again."[31][32] His administrative modifications involved changing one specific insulting phrase, in several comments, to make them appear as if the insults were directed toward the moderators of the subreddit instead of him.[33] In a Reddit post, Huffman wrote that he "messed with" some of the comments but that he "restored the original comments after less than an hour."[34] On November 30, 2016, Huffman announced that sticky posts from /r/The_Donald would no longer show up on r/all, stating that the community's moderators were abusing the feature in order to "slingshot posts into r/all, often in a manner that is antagonistic to the rest of the community."[35][36]

Black Lives MatterEdit

On June 1, 2020, Huffman published an open letter as Reddit's CEO, titled "Remember to be Human - Black lives matter",[37] which addressed the topic of racism on the platform.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao called out Huffman's letter with a tweet on her official Twitter profile, saying that Reddit had long condoned racism and that the platform "monetizes white supremacy". The popular NBA and NFL subreddits agreed with Pao, obscuring their sections for 24 hours.[38] Alexis Ohanian resigned on June 5, 2020, asking to be replaced by a black director and urging the company to finally ban hate speech and hate communities on Reddit in an open letter.[39]

Net neutrality activismEdit

Huffman is an advocate for net neutrality rules.[40][41] In 2017, Huffman told The New York Times that without net neutrality protections, "you give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers".[40] On Reddit, Huffman urged redditors to express support for net neutrality and contact their elected representatives in Washington, D.C.[41] Huffman said that the repeal of net neutrality rules stifles competition. He said he and Reddit would continue to advocate for net neutrality.[42]

Personal lifeEdit

Huffman lives in San Francisco, California.[43] He mentors aspiring programmers at coding bootcamps including Hackbright Academy.[44] Huffman was an instructor for e-learning courses on web development by Udacity.[45][46][47] He is on the board of advisors for the Anti-Defamation League's Center for Technology and Society.[48]

Huffman is a ballroom dancer.[43][9] At UVA, Huffman competed in intercollegiate competitions.[43][9] Huffman married in 2009 but is now divorced.[49]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hempel, Jessi (6 October 2015). "Inside Reddit's plan to recover from its epic meltdown". Wired. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  2. ^ "The top 500 sites on the web". Alexa Internet. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Jaffee, Michelle Koidin (Fall 2014). "The Voice of His Generation". Virginia. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  4. ^ "The Odyssey of an Alum". Wakefield School. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b Zak Richards. "Unleashing High-Profile, High-Profit Websites". Archived from the original on 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  6. ^ Williams, Michelle (August 2015). "'This internet thing is not a fad': Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian to discuss online entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst". Mass Live. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Fink, Steve (August 2015). "Mr. Meme". Baltimore. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Live Episode! Reddit: Alexis Ohanian & Steve Huffman". How I Built This With Guy Raz. 31 August 2017. NPR.
  9. ^ a b c Wallace, Benjamin (6 October 2015). "Can Steve Huffman Save Reddit From Itself?". New York. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  10. ^ Macale, Sherilynn "Cheri" (14 October 2011). "A rundown of Reddit's history and community [Infographic]". The Next Web Social Media. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  11. ^ Derek Mead (21 June 2012). "How Reddit Got Huge: Tons of Fake Accounts". Motherboard. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  12. ^ Casey Johnston (21 June 2012). "reddit founders made hundreds of fake profiles so site looked popular". Ars Technica. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Condé Nast/Wired Acquires Reddit". 2006-10-31.
  14. ^ Koh, Yoree (13 September 2016). "Reddit's 'Ask Me Anything' CEO opens up on overcoming crisis". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  15. ^ a b Marantz, Andrew (19 March 2018). "Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  16. ^ "About Hipmunk". Hipmunk. 2010-08-01. Archived from the original on 2015-06-16. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
  17. ^ Leena Rao (2010-08-01). "Reddit Co-Founder Dips Back Into Y Combinator With Travel Startup Hipmunk".
  18. ^ Pepitone, Julianne (19 August 2010). "Hipmunk's dazzling new view of flight search". CNNMoney. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman, Founders of Hipmunk". 2011-06-27.
  20. ^ Matthew Hall (10 Dec 2014). "'Atrocious, mobile sucks': Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman on what site has become". The Age.
  21. ^ Issac, Mike (July 10, 2015). "Ellen Pao Is Stepping Down as Reddit's Chief". New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  22. ^ a b c d Lagorio-Chafkin, Christine (9 March 2018). "Steve Huffman Talks About Bringing Reddit Back From the Brink". Inc. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  23. ^ "New CEO: Some People on Reddit 'Shouldn't Be Here at All'". Re/Code. 14 Jul 2015.
  24. ^ Adi Robertson (15 July 2015). "Was Reddit always about free speech? Yes, and no". The Verge. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  25. ^ Shaw, Dougal (2 June 2016). "Reddit plans to host videos on its site". BBC News. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  26. ^ Roisin Kiberd (5 December 2016). "'Spezgiving': How Reddit's CEO Tried And Failed to Troll the Trolls". Motherboard. Vice. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  27. ^ a b c Pardes, Arielle (2 April 2018). "The inside story of Reddit's redesign". Wired. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  28. ^ Loten, Angus (10 April 2018). "Reddit CEO revamped outdated website from the IT foundations". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Steve Huffman | 2020 40 under 40 in Tech". Fortune. Retrieved 2020-09-13.
  30. ^ Menegus, Bryan (24 November 2016). "Reddit CEO Caught Secretly Editing User Comments, Chatlogs Leaked [Update]". Gizmodo. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  31. ^ Yeung, Ken. "Reddit CEO apologizes for editing comments critical of him following Pizzagate ban". VentureBeat. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  32. ^ Russell, Jon. "Reddit CEO admits he secretly edited comments from Donald Trump supporters". TechCrunch. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  33. ^ Weingerger, Matt. "The CEO of Reddit confessed to modifying posts from Trump supporters after they wouldn't stop sending him expletives". Business Insider. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  34. ^ Chaitin, Daniel (November 25, 2016). "Reddit CEO admits editing pro-Trump users' comments". Washington Examiner. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  35. ^ Lecher, Colin (30 November 2016). "Reddit will punish hundreds of 'toxic users' and hide some posts from pro-Trump community". The Verge. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  36. ^ Lee, Dave (November 30, 2016). "Reddit moves against 'toxic' Trump fans". BBC News. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  37. ^ Huffman, Steve (June 1, 2020). "Remember the Human – Black Lives Matter". Upvoted.
  38. ^ Collins, Katie (June 2, 2020). "Reddit slammed by former CEO Ellen Pao for 'amplifying' racism and hate". CNET.
  39. ^ "Alexis Ohanian Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2021-12-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. ^ a b Kang, Cecilia (14 December 2017). "F.C.C. repeals net neutrality rules". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  41. ^ a b Ingram, Mathew (6 December 2017). "Reddit flexes its muscle over net neutrality". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  42. ^ "Reddit CEO says net neutrality vote stifles competition". Bloomberg LP. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  43. ^ a b c Osnos, Evan (30 January 2017). "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich". The New Yorker. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  44. ^ Truong, Alice (17 December 2013). ""Become an iOS developer in 8 weeks": The truth about hack schools". Fast Company. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  45. ^ "Udacity CS253 Web Application Engineering". 2012-04-01. Archived from the original on 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
  46. ^ Sue Gee (11 November 2015). "Top CS MOOCs by the numbers". I Programmer. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  47. ^ O'Neill, Megan (19 June 2012). "Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman sheds light on the early days". Adweek. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  48. ^ Carson, Erin (13 November 2017). "Anti-Defamation League taps tech giants to fight hate". CNet. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  49. ^ "Can Steve Huffman Save Reddit From Itself?". Intelligencer. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2021-02-20.

External linksEdit