Reddit bills itself as the “front page of the Internet” but it’s really more like the BBS and Internet forums of old. Someone makes a post and it gets discussed and commented on to death (or until a mod closes the thread) but all of this interaction happens asynchronously. Unless you sit all day in front of a Reddit page, waiting for someone to reply or post a comment. Now you no longer have to do that thanks to a new feature that matches you up with random Redditors with presumably the same interests as you.
There is something to be said about the asynchronous nature of communication channels like forums, emails, and Reddit comments. You can take your time formulating an answer or even, hopefully, let tempers cool down instead of starting a war. It can, however, also be boring, anxiety-inducing, and unnatural since it’s not the way humans usually communicate.
After a failed attempt at community-wide chat rooms, Reddit is introducing a rather curious way to keep chat groups small. Start Chatting pairs users others in a subreddit for real-time group chats. The catch is that there can only be a maximum of 7 people in a group and that the composition of the group is random.
It’s almost like Reddit’s version of speed dating or game matchmaking, except done in small groups. It’s a curious way to build a group chat and it does have its drawbacks because of that. For example, subreddit moderators have no direct control over what happens inside a group and group members can only report messages that go against the rules or proper conduct. Users can’t even kick someone out of a group but can only block them or leave the group.
It’s definitely an interesting spin on the group chat system but one that seems to almost invite trouble and abuse. Reddit already has a one-on-one chat system that it proudly reports as a successful feature and it may be that success, and the rise in Reddit usage the past months, that has inspired it to make this experiment.