Reddit, the link-sharing web community that more or less took over from Digg as the “front page of the internet,” has another feather in its cap to brag about: President Barack Obama showed up Wednesday afternoon to take part in one of the site’s famous “Ask Me Anything” features, where he got to field questions about things like space travel and his favorite room at the White House. Although his answers were by no means earth-shattering — and the chance to ask the sitting president of the United States a question created so much demand that the site had trouble coping with the traffic — his appearance helps bolster the site’s claim to being an alternative source of journalism, something it has established recently by helping to cover breaking news stories like the shooting in Aurora, Colorado last month.
The president took part in the somewhat brief public Q and A session while at a campaign stop in Charlottesville, Virginia — which Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said was a nice touch, considering he and his co-founder Steve Huffman came up with the idea for the web community in the library at the University of Virginia while they we’re both studying there in 2005. Although Reddit was for many years seen as a pale imitation of the then-dominant Digg, Reddit continued to grow even after it was acquired by the Conde Nast publishing empire. When Digg’s fan base started to implode following some poorly thought-out changes in 2010, Reddit picked up the slack.
More recently, Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” feature has become a popular way of crowdsourcing interviews with public figures — including Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, comedian and crowdfunding success story Louis CK and legendary Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Some politicians have taken part in an AMA, including Rep. Darrell Issa, who spoke about his opposition to anti-piracy legislation like SOPA and PIPA. But President Obama is the first leader of a country to offer himself up for questions from Reddit users with nicknames like “Campfire Weiners” and “Drunken Economist.”
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