Reddit’s little mascot, Snoo, contains multitudes. The precious, ever-smiling alien hangs out at the top of hundreds of subreddits, mixing with the locals like a savvy politician. In r/ trees, a community for marijuanas enthusiasts, Snoo puffs a joint. In r/ gonewild, Snoo poses for a selfie in a wig and lingerie. In r/ Asceticism, Snoo dematerializes into the cyberether, its form the mere wisp of an outline.
Cheeky bugger. Indeed, Snoo’s existence has always been something of an inside joke. Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian doodled the animal in a notebook during a marketing class his senior year at the University of Virginia. Black and white with pops of red, it seemed conjured from pure whimsy: oval head, pom-pom ears, single antenna. Like a Teletubby, minus the space suit. When Reddit launched in 2005, the describe served as a convenient icon for the site, which was then a place for sharing news connections.( Advance Publications, which owns WIRED publisher Conde Nast, is now a Reddit shareholder .) At first, Ohanian wanted to call the site S’new, a marshmallow-mouthed contraction of “What’s new? ” The tastier name Reddit predominated; Snoo, more pleasingly spelled, lived on with the mascot.
As Reddit expanded and its user base splintered into tribes( subreddits ), Snoo proved a fitting role model. “Snoo came to symbolize Reddit and a Reddit user, ” Ohanian says, in that the icon happened to be particularly moldable. It’s a happy accident that Ohanian’s hastened sketch left Snoo colorless and genderless, a form onto which everyone could map themselves.
This creative canvas was, in some way, illustrative of the early web, where nobody knew you were a dog. The closest thing to verification on Reddit, even now, is a confirmation that the email attached to your account is real. Anonymity is accepted, even encouraged. You can have multiples accounts, fake accounts, throwaways for posting the kinds of deep, dark contemplations that perfectly must not, under any circumstances, get traced back to the real you.( I have three usernames: one for lurking, one for reportage, and one for purposes I would never share in print .) Identities are fragmented; each version of you, a new Snoo.