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Conde Nast's Reddit goes open-source

Social news site, still lagging far behind Digg in traffic, has opted to release its code under the Common Public Attribution License.

Reddit, the social news site that publishing giant Conde Nast acquired in 2006, has made a big announcement: The site's code, as of Wednesday, is open source. It's been released under the Common Public Attribution License (CPAL).

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"We'll leave it to the users and see what they come up with," co-founder Steve Huffman told CNET in an interview when asked what the site expected would happen. But more than anything, he's hoping users will tweak some of what they want to see changed and add new features. Social news sites like Reddit and Digg are often home to extremely opinionated communities, and by making its code open-source, Reddit will be able to let those users work on the site themselves to an extent rather than repeatedly petitioning for changes.

"It was kind of an easy decision for us," Huffman explained. "One of our driving goals is to stay as open and transparent as possible and give our users an alternative to mainstream media...this is just the next logical step toward that goal of opening up the actual system." He added that he was surprised that Conde Nast was so quick to approve Reddit's proposal to go open-source.

Reddit now counts 4.5 million unique visitors monthly, significantly smaller than rivals Digg and Yahoo Buzz. But the site has grown 1,000 percent since the acquisition by Conde Nast's Wired Digital division, Huffman said. And its open-source move is something that none of its competitors is doing, he emphasized.

Growth of news aggregation start-ups, however, could take a hit when the frenzy over the 2008 U.S. election is over. "I'm not too worried about it," Huffman said. "I think traffic will definitely change a little. We've seen that in smaller scales already. We saw when the Ron Paul movement kind of came and went...when Ron Paul kind of cooled down, a lot of those users left but the traffic stayed up."

Reddit has a history of openness, too. Last year, to celebrate its acquisition, the company toured around the country giving away free beer.