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Reddit: Obama visit generates most activity ever

The president breaks all the rules, breaks a Reddit record, and draws at least 5.3 million views, news stats reveal.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
3 min read
Reddit traffic to President Barack Obama's "ask me anything" session spiked at about 9 a.m. PT. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

President Barack Obama broke all the campaigning rules when he held an unmoderated Q&A session on one of the Internet's most infamous socially aggregated new sites -- and he also broke a Reddit record.

Obama's session on Reddit yesterdayattracted more user activity than any other single submission to the forum, more than even the site's front page, Reddit revealed today in a stats breakdown of the virtual visit.

By the end of the day yesterday, the site had clocked nearly 3 million page views for the submission and the number kept growing by the tens of thousands. As of 9 a.m. PT today, that number was at nearly 5.3 million.

President Obama linked to this photo when asked for proof that he was really behind the posts from the Reddit handle PresidentObama during an "ask me anything" session. PresidentObama

That's a whole lot of hearts and minds to win. And the number of people who heard about the campaign stunt must be even higher with social media and news outlets reporting Obama's first time calling for, via Reddit, an amendment to overturn campaign finance law.

The folks at Reddit must be jumping with glee. They gave the president a publicly unavailable handle PresidentObama. The former user had already created the account and deleted it a while ago, so it was unavailable, but those at Reddit thought it was an appropriate occasion to dust it off.

(The blog post reminds users that "If you are not a current or former head of state, don't ask us for a deleted username.")

Redditors took to the Obama session with little lead time.

Within the first 5 minutes, Redditors had posted 37 comments. That number grew exponentially over the next hour. After 10 minutes the number was 278; 30 minutes in, the number jumped to 5,266. By the end of the first hour there were more than 10,000 comments posted in the thread.

At the peak of this session -- which was at about 9 a.m. PT, according to this nifty 3D map of traffic (requires browser that supports WebGL) displayed by city and hour -- Reddit was receiving more than 100,000 page views per minute. The Reddit staff knew that there was going to be a lot of traffic, but even with 30 additional servers -- a 20 percent increase -- the load was too much. During the course of the hour, Reddit added 30 more servers, but the traffic continued to overwhelm and slow down the site.

At the end of the day, the Reddit staff feel like they've taken a big step for online communities, as the president's session propelled the site's untamed discussion into the mainstream.

Of course, the president didn't do so bad himself, either. In addition to free publicity and stealing some GOP thunder, Obama received from Redditors gifts of reddit gold -- a type of credit used to get premium Reddit service.

"The president's account was given 5 years, 9 months of reddit gold! (Suppose someone will have to figure out how to declare virtual gifts if they haven't already)," the blog said, with its characteristic cheekiness.

Maybe that means we can expect to see PresidentObama trolling the Reddit pages soon.