The Largest Secret Santa Exchange in the World

RedditGifts lets you exchange gifts with strangers on the internet, and it’s less creepy than it sounds.

This past December, my fiance and I participated in Reddit Secret Santa. RedditGifts started in 2009 with 9,000 participants, and last year over 100,000 people and organizations participated in a secret santa exchange with complete strangers over the internet.


Reddit is a content sharing and commenting community, that has been in the top 10 most visited websites on the web. RedditGifts, the platform behind the infamous reddit secret santa, began because of the strong relationships that were developed between users on this platform. When a user signs up for the secret santa, they are automatically paired with another redditor and are provided that user’s username, a quick bio written by the user, and any additional social channels that the user chooses to disclose. Gifts are recommended to be $20, you can select to be paired with a US or global user (based on your shipping expense tolerance), and celebrities and high net worth individuals routinely participate (including Bill Gates who usually gifts to a charity on behalf of his user). The beauty of RedditGifts is that they have found a way to have every participant basically add a new person to their christmas shopping list, without any strings. This is annual injection of at least $2M (though speculated to be much more) into the economy without a catch. The catch? RedditGifts does not charge its users, and therefore does not directly make any money. has been unprofitable, and recently has begun to monetize through ads and donations. RedditGifts’ goal is to strengthen the community of reddit, and reddit is responsible for monetizing their engaged userbase. To this end, RG has certainly fulfilled its end of the bargain and I believe there is tremendous room to grow.


Quoted from the RedditGifts blog, ““redditgifts is a group of total strangers from all over the world who have managed to form a community held together by one thing—being thoughtful and generous to one another. It’s amazing that a group of people who have never met each other, and probably never will, can come together to form such a strong, connected community. Being a part of redditgifts is being a part of something huge and magical. If Santa were real, he’d be jealous.”

My fiance and I participated last year and the results were amazing. The anticipation of receiving a surprise in the mail, chosen simply from your online presence, creates a huge amount of variance in quality of gifts and gamify’s the experience. Additionally, seeing the reaction post uploaded to reddit from the user that I gifted keeps me engaged for weeks after the swap as I check his/her feedback and community comments on the post. The repeat users are sticky, and the high engagement hours on the platform from users is a metric coveted by many unprofitable platforms.


I think the biggest issue RedditGifts is going to face as popularity increases is from scammers or bad actors. 9,000 to 100,000 seems large but the daily active userbase of reddit is well into the millions, so as more convert into the redditgifts platform the upkeep costs may increase which puts pressure on the organization to consider monetizing redditgifts. Additionally, more money will be needed to prevent or remedy situations from bad actors. The beauty of it, however? It’s a gift. The stakes are incredibly low, Reddit’s data collection is low (although you upload your address, you are encouraged to use a PO Box and any data you upload is destroyed immediately after the secretsanta exchange), and as of now bad actors can do pretty minimal damage except keep your $20 gift without sending you one in return. Additionally, while I participated in the secret santa, the portal holds exchanges all year for different vertical / niche categories. I think these will be increasingly more difficult to manage or maintain.

Now that we’ve tried it, my fiance and I are hooked. It feels good to give a gift, and it feels good to get a surprise in the mail that you trust will be safe to open. This is one addition to my christmas gift that feels less like a chore, and more like a game.


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Student comments on The Largest Secret Santa Exchange in the World

  1. There is no denying that this idea brings the best out in people. However, drawing on Michael Porter’s CSV concept, the project can only go so far. The website ought to achieve real financial sustainability: either making it a business or letting it die. While it took some time to get there, Reddit has eventually adressed this with “Redditgifts Marketplace”, which facilitates easy gift buying and sending for exchange. This is the key to the site’s monetization. This move is transforming Redditgifts into the Amazon Marketplace of gift-giving.

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