Reddit announced on Wednesday that it had confidentially filed paperwork for an eventual public offering of its stock, a significant step toward the public markets for the 16-year-old internet company.
The company did not disclose the total number of shares to be offered nor did it state an initial valuation, figures that will likely be worked out in the weeks ahead as it prepares a prospectus for potential investors. A Reddit spokeswoman did not provide further comment beyond a company news release announcing the decision.
Reddit is one of a generation of proto-social media companies that allowed users to trade comments, stories, photos and videos using topic-based message boards.
But as competitors like Digg and other similar sites fell away, Reddit grew in popularity as a destination for enthusiasts of practically everything. From “Makeup Addicted” users to people who post videos of themselves power-washing their driveways, the site is home to more than 100,000 active communities visited by upward of 50 million people every day.
The site made near daily headlines early this year after one of its forums, called WallStreetBets, laid the foundation for an enormous rally in shares of GameStop, creating a category that became known as “meme stocks,” or securities popular with Reddit users and others on the internet.
The path forward has not been without issues. Critics of the site noted Reddit’s longtime laissez-faire approach to content moderation, often preferring a hands-off approach to some of the most noxious ideas and people on the internet. But over the years, a number of its executives — including the former chief executive Ellen Pao, and later Steve Huffman, the current chief executive — made it a priority to rein in the platform and enforce new, stricter rules on what was allowed on the site.
As controversies grew less frequent, Reddit focused more of its energies on building the company’s business. Reddit acquired Dubsmash, a TikTok-like video platform, and Mr. Huffman has said he hopes to improve the company’s video products as a potentially lucrative revenue stream. Reddit also sells advertising to brands and marketers, and allows users to buy digital goods and services across the site.
The company has raised more than $1 billion in private capital from investors including Fidelity Management, Advance Publications, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. The company was last valued at more than $10 billion after its most recent funding round in August.
Executives at Reddit have mulled a road toward the public markets for some time. Mr. Huffman hired a chief financial officer this year. Mr. Huffman said at the time that he was also considering some nontraditional paths toward a public company, including looking into special purpose acquisition companies, or so-called SPACs, which rose in popularity this year but have fallen out of favor more recently.
Instead, Mr. Huffman has chosen a path with more scrutiny, as investment banks and public investors review the firm’s financials in the coming weeks before it goes public.
“All good companies should go public when they can,” Mr. Huffman said in an interview earlier this year.