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Reddit discontinues its ‘Start Chatting’ feature a day after release

On Thursday, Reddit announced a new ‘start chatting’ feature, which would allow users to start a chat room with 10 random people of a community. The feature release saw mixed reactions as several subreddit moderators weren’t happy about the amount of control they had on these chat rooms and also the update came with its own set of bugs, which in some instances made the button unusable.

To begin with, moderators couldn’t opt-out of the feature, which caused concern as this reduced the control they exerted over their community or subreddit. The feature appeared at the top of the community pages, and any member could click on the Start Chatting button to create a random chatroom with other active community members.

“This past month, as people around the world have been at home under various shelter-in-place restrictions, Redditors have been using the chat at phenomenal new levels. Whether it’s about topics related to COVID-19, local news, or just their favourite games and hobbies, people all around the world are looking for others to talk to. Since Reddit is in a unique position to help in this situation, we’ve created a new tool that makes it easier to find other people who want to talk about the same things you do,” a company employee wrote in a Reddit post.

However, after a lot of pushback on the feature by subreddit moderators as well as users due to the bugs that made the feature hard to use, the company decided to rollback the feature entirely.

“We made the decision to fully roll back the feature. We will not roll the feature out within your community again without having a way for you to opt-out, and will provide you with ample notice and regular updates going forward,” said Alex L, VP Product, Design and Community, Reddit.He further explained that the company was too quick on releasing the feature without beta testing it first with a few hundred communities before the wider rollout.

“We weren’t clear enough with everyone that these chats are moderated entirely by our Safety Teams — not by moderators. We didn’t make it easy to understand if this feature was live for your communities. We took some time to ensure support communities, NSFW communities, and a few other categories were ineligible, but this was all confused by a bug that occurred in rare circumstances which made it appear as though this feature was turned on for literally every subreddit,” Alex continued.

While Reddit has rolled back the update, Alex also mentioned that the feature received positive response while being tested with a 1 in 10,000 report rate. In any case, for now, Reddit has removed the feature and promised due diligence in further update rollouts.

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