Have you noticed that Reddit seems like it’s constantly going offline, and runs into issues multiple times per day?
Heck, sometimes even multiple times per hour! This can be confusing, especially since other large websites like Facebook or YouTube never seem to go down.
If you’ve been met with an, “all our servers are busy right now” or “Our CDN was unable to reach our servers” message, this can be quite alarming. Fortunately, there’s usually a simple explanation for it.
So, if you’re wondering why Reddit is always down, here are the primary reasons.
1. Lack Of Server Capacity
This is the big one.
Most of the time, Reddit does not go down because of any sort of technical error or bug. Instead, the number of servers they have simply isn’t enough to support the number of people trying to use the site.
On a small website like the one you’re on now, we only use one primary server. That is, one computer dedicated to hosting our pages and delivering content to you. On sites even smaller than this one, a single server can be shared by dozens of websites at once.
Reddit however handles much more traffic than one server can handle on its own. Instead, traffic is split up among many different servers. Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong commented that Reddit had hundreds of servers back in 2015, and this number could be into the thousands today.
So, as Reddit has grown, so has the complexity – and the computer hardware needed to serve all visitors coming to the site. This inevitably has contributed to Reddit’s frequent downtime and connection issues.
Now surely you must be wondering – if Reddit is such a large company now, couldn’t they just buy more servers? Surely they could afford it, couldn’t they?
Well, there’s another explanation for that…
2. Sudden Traffic Surges
Traffic surges and Reddit’s lack of server capacity go hand-in-hand.
When you think about it, it makes sense.
Like the rest of the internet, Reddit is prone to massive surges in traffic. This is particularly true during major, newsworthy events, but also during certain hours of the day.
People are more likely to browse during their lunch break at work or school, than they are at 3 AM – at least in countries where usage of Reddit is popular.
The problem is, renting hundreds or thousands of servers is expensive, and Reddit has never exactly been the most profitable company.
Let’s say that Reddit had 500 servers to use. Throughout most of the day, their servers may not even be operating at 50% capacity. So, for most of the day, they could effectively get by with half the servers if they needed to.
The extra servers are there so service will remain stable even during the busier hours of the day.
However, Reddit knows that during major events – whether they be sudden, or scheduled (like big sports finals for example), they will experience a surge in traffic that will send them over capacity. This presents two options.
Either Reddit can rent more servers that will rarely get used, or they can allow the site to go down for some people.
Ultimately, Reddit has likely found it to be more profitable to let the site go down for a period of time, than to rent extra servers for these brief surges in traffic.
While obviously their situation is a little more complex than this example, this is believed to be the most likely scenario. Reddit certainly could rent more servers and dedicate more staff to ensuring near-100% uptime, but this is likely far more expensive than just letting the site go down for a little while during peak moments.
3. Reddit’s CDN Isn’t Working
We now know that Reddit has hundreds or even thousands of different servers, all working together to deliver content smoothly.
But did you know that there’s another layer to it all?
Reddit utilizes something called a content delivery network, or CDN. This website uses one as well, called Cloudflare.
Essentially, CDNs work to help websites load more quickly by spreading the same content around to different servers, that will load more quickly for visitors around the world.
For example, copies of the page that you’re reading now may be stored on more than 200 different servers across the world. That way, if you’re in New Zealand for example, you’ll likely load the copy of the page that Cloudflare stores on a New Zealand server, rather than having to connect all the way to our server in the United States.
Think of it like this:
- We have our one, primary server here in the U.S.
- Cloudflare – our CDN, pulls copies of the page from our server, and then spreads them out to their 200+ servers in 90+ countries.
- Your device pulls the copy of the page from the Cloudflare server closest to you, so it will load more quickly.
- If a copy isn’t available, then you’ll connect to another nearby Cloudflare server, or to our server directly if none are available.
Reddit operates in the same way. The problem is, sometimes the CDN doesn’t work correctly – it’s another thing that can break.
When this happens, you’ll experience the “Our CDN was unable to reach our servers” error message, that may take a few minutes to resolve.
4. Larger Sites Are More Difficult To Manage
Finally, it’s possible that Reddit actually is experiencing technical issues that are not related to their server capacity.
For example, if you receive a message saying “You Broke Reddit” or “5oo. Internal Server Error”, this may point to a technical problem rather than their servers or CDN being down.
It goes without saying, but large sites like Reddit are more prone to having problems. Not only are there more users, but the architecture of the site is a lot more complicated as well.
And unfortunately if one error is made somewhere, Reddit’s entire functionality can cease to work correctly.
Thankfully, these sort of issues tend to get sorted out quite quickly. A company of Reddit’s size surely has engineers working around the clock to correct any issues, so usually waiting a few minutes and refreshing the page will cause the error to go away.
So, all you’ve got to do is wait!
Unfortunately, Reddit – unlike many other large websites, goes down frequently.
Typically, this is due to traffic surges and lack of server capacity, rather than an error with the site itself.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any other questions about Reddit, please ask them using the comment form below.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister