Reddit is a social platform which is home to thousands of communities offering authentic human interaction focused around specific user interests. Reddit saw the success of live-streaming platforms around the internet and felt like there was a big opportunity to introduce live video in a way that only Reddit could offer. What amazing things could the internet come up with with a platform for any person to stream live to an audience of millions of people? Reddit is uniquely positioned to answer that question in the best way.
This created a unique engineering challenge, as much of the infrastructure and development needed was not done yet. Reddit’s existing codebase has many, many features and moving parts and is built on top of a backend that has seen many years of changes. They wanted to find a way to add the new functionality seamlessly to their app, while offering the best performance for streaming without compromising other features and teams. They also needed to implement streaming in such a way that it was seen positively by subreddit moderators, who play a big role in making Reddit the great community it is. Reddit came up with the idea of “Reddit Public Access Network”, aka. RPAN, as a forum for redditors to stream in for a limited time. We integrated into their development and product workflow with their live streaming and iOS teams, and then we were off to the races building a prototype with the team and eventually a polished final product.
Before we joined in, Reddit had built a streaming video backend to handle the low-level work of supporting live streams on the backend. After joining, we worked along with their team to add video streaming to their mobile apps and to improve performance and backend APIs. From there, we worked closely with design and product teams to refine and improve the user experience as much as possible, testing for months to get the “just right” feel and make sure we were ready to deploy to hundreds of millions of people at once.
Reddit launched RPAN in a five day trial in August of 2019 and millions of users participated in and watched live streams on mobile and the web. A number of users shot to internet fame as a result of getting massive exposure that would have been nearly impossible with traditional streaming approaches. Based on the popularity with the user base, they decided to continue iterating on the feature and working with us. They would like it to be an important part of the Reddit experience and we’re excited to see how live streaming evolves on Reddit!