Reddit CEO Calls Machine Translation ‘Big Unlock’ for Growth

Reddit IPO Machine Translation

Reddit, the online network of over 100,000 communities created in 2005, began trading on Nasdaq on March 21, 2024. The company had its first quarter (Q1) earnings call on May 7, 2024, and translation figured prominently in some of the statements made about the company’s growth strategy.

Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman spoke about how the company has been investing in machine learning and AI to update and improve some of the Reddit native apps’ core functionalities. 

Those investments include training and testing their own large language models (LLMs), which Huffman said will continue to be implemented more broadly. “One of the things, I think, that’s most exciting for us with large language models, is the ability to do translation at human-level quality.”

Huffman went on to say that Reddit is “using machine translation to unlock our mostly English corpus. We believe this will not only drive growth in the near-term, but also over time will allow users from all over the world to connect regardless of the languages they speak.”

“I think one of the big unlocks for us in the near to medium-term is machine translation.” — Steve Huffman, CEO and co-founder, Reddit

Highlighting how machine translation will be key to Reddit’s international growth, Huffman compared the company’s user geographic distribution to its social media competitors, saying it is still 50/50 US vs non-US, whereas other networks are “more 80% to 90% non-US.”

Huffman says he thinks this presents Reddit with a huge opportunity and emphasizes the role of MT by stating that “I think one of the big unlocks for us in the near to medium-term is machine translation. So we’re translating our entire corpus that’s today mostly in English and the other languages and hope that that will help accelerate international growth.”

First French, then the World 

One of the financial analysts on the earnings call asked Huffman to talk more about the machine translation tools being built, specifically about French and users in French-speaking countries. Huffman first elaborated on LLMs, saying that “this was just quite simply technology that didn’t really exist a year ago, and now we can translate Reddit’s entire corpus into another language. And so French is the first language we’re doing in the stand. It’s in testing now, and the results are looking very promising.”

Huffman explained that users in France in the test group can already see all the communities in French, including big blue-chip communities like AskReddit. His hope for the strategy is to have “improved retention and time on site and then growth among these users.” 

“This was just quite simply technology that didn’t really exist a year ago” — Steve Huffman, CEO and co-founder, Reddit

The machine-translated content is also getting indexed by Google in French, which, according to Huffman, is also attracting new users. He qualified the effort as a really promising start, adding that “We’re going to do more languages this year. As we get the product polished, the next one would be Spanish, which I think represents a pretty big opportunity. So this is very exciting.”

Huffman honed in on the speed of MT implementation saying that “I think I keep saying ‘everybody has a home on Reddit today,’ that’s a true statement if you speak English, but we want to make that a true statement for everyone in the world. I think it’s not a matter of if but when, but we want to make that as fast as possible. And so I think this represents our best shot at dramatically accelerating our growth outside the U.S. in the non-English markets.”

At closing time on May 7, 2024, Reddit shares (RDDT) were trading up at USD 49.40 (+1.13; +2.34%).