Reddit kills Secret Santa exchange – and users are livid

Reddit has announced its huge Secret Santa gift exchange, which attracted the attentions of celebrities like Bill Gates, Jimmy Fallon, and Snoop Dogg every year, is closing down.

The event, which took place every year since 2009 and resulted in the exchange of millions of presents between hundreds and thousands of people, will finish in 2021.

“We made the difficult decision to shut down Reddit Gifts and put more focus on enhancing the user experience on Reddit – this includes investing in the foundation of our platform and moderator tools, making it more accessible for people around the world and evolving how people engage with one another”, Reddit said in a statement on its r/announcements subreddit.

The company will divert resources into its ‘karma’ rankings (points users receive for posting and commenting), a new video player, and improving recommendations instead – but added that it is “hopeful that [the] spirit” of Secret Santa will continue.

The news has seemingly infuriated the Reddit community, with many of the top comments on the social media company’s post decrying the announcement. “Translation – we weren’t making enough money off this to be worth out time and effort”, one user wrote.

“A great community project, swallowed up by the company, and now taken out back and put down”, added another, with a third decrying the company’s “attitude of complacency and defeatism” and that “Reddit’s not as fun as it once was.” Reddit did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent before time of publication.

Secret Santa was not originally an idea born from Reddit itself. Dan McComas, who was a systems architect from Alameda, California in 2009, created a Secret Santa subreddit that quickly picked up traction. In 2011, Reddit acquired the project, and an external site, two years later.

Although Reddit owned the project, called ‘redditgifts’, there appears to be some tension between McComas and the social media company. “I would like to offer to completely take over redditgifts again. You can keep everything about it, I will even run your ads and you can keep all of the profits. I will pay for hosting, do all developments and support/community work”, McComas said in a post underneath the announcement.

When asked by another user why he was “willing to give it back to them after they killed your project for no reason”, McComas replied that he “like[s] to do things to make people happy”. The Independent has contacted McComas for more information about the controversial decision.

The top comment, with nearly 13,000 upvotes, on Reddit’s announcement reads: “So you took over someone elses [sic] project years ago, made some money off of it and then killed it. Yikes.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, the gift exchange struggled to reach previous heights. In the United Kingdom, nearly 18 million people have been forced into debt since the start of the pandemic; similar events occurred in the United States. Nevertheless, the event was important to participants, with many posting heartfelt messages and saying that it was nice to “spread a bit of happiness”.

At the time, Reddit told The Independent that it was great to see the event “be a powerful tool for connection in such a physically isolated time” and that “one-of-a-kind gifting experiences … come to life with this year’s exchange.” It is unclear what changed.


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