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Reddit Rolls Out Green Indicator Dots to Notify People When You're Online

Uh, what the heck is this green dot next to my Reddit account? (Credit: Reddit)

Reddit is adding a subtle change to the social media platform that’ll let other users know when you’re online. 

The change, introduced today, is already rankling some privacy-conscious users. If you have an account on the platform, you’ll notice a green dot next to your screen name, indicating you’re active. The green dot will also appear next to your screen name on your Reddit posts and comments, telling everyone in the forum you’re online. 

Reddit's online indicator system

Credit: Reddit

For now, the “online presence indicator” is only viewable to you, meaning your status will remain private to other users. Reddit is still prototyping feature, but the goal is to eventually put the indicator system into practice. 

“If everything goes according to plan, we will open up a version of this feature to 10% of our Android users, where only those specific users will be able to see each other’s online status indicator,” Reddit admin “lift_ticket83” wrote in the announcement.

“We wanted to give users a week-long opportunity to opt-out before making this public,” the admin later added. “If everything goes according to plan, we will gradually make this feature more public over the coming weeks.” 

Reddit's online indicator system

Credit: Reddit

Reddit is introducing the feature in the hopes it’ll drive up user engagement and encourage people to post more. “We believe Online Presence Indicators could be beneficial to some of our communities where we see more real-time discussions unfolding (r/CasualConversation or r/caps) and to our smaller communities where some users may be hesitant to post or comment because they’re unsure whether or not there are active users within the community,” lift_ticket83 added.  

Indeed, Facebook and other chat apps have used similar systems to let you know when your friends or familiar members are online, and hence, available to talk. However, the big difference with Reddit is how it’s a gathering place for millions of strangers—some of whom can engage in bad behavior and harass others. (Imagine Twitter implementing this feature.)

So it’s perhaps no surprise the initial public feedback on the indicator system has been negative. “If someone wants to harass someone they can see they are online and just send pms (personal messages) or chat requests. This is sending up a flair [sic] for loonies to follow,” wrote one user.

If you’re not a fan, you can opt out of the online presence indicator by going into your profile, and toggling yourself as “hiding,” which turns the feature off. (For the old Reddit interface, go to options and uncheck “let other users see my online status.”)

Nevertheless, some are still annoyed at Reddit because the platform automatically opted everyone into the online indicator system. “No one asked for this, you didn’t ask the users, and it’s a disgusting invasion of privacy to make it opt-out,” wrote another user in response.

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