Ellen Pao, embattled chief of an online community gone berserk, is Reddit CEO no more. She will be replaced by Reddit co-founder and former CEO Steve Huffman.

Pao took to Reddit to announce her resignation to the Reddit community. Although the events leading to her stepping down certainly fueled the fire, Pao says her decision was due to a difference of opinion with the Reddit board over how much user growth the website can sustain over the following six months.

"Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining Reddit's core principles," Pao said.

The resignation comes just days after Pao apologized twice to the Reddit community for the removal of its former Director of Talent, Victoria Taylor, a well-loved administrator who was crucial to the success of Reddit's Ask Me Anything Q&A sessions with people of varying degrees of fame, from Barack Obama to a man who was an extra in a Power Ranger series.

The abrupt removal of Taylor has caused Reddit's thousands of moderators to shut their subreddits to the public. This was followed by a Change.org petition calling Pao "a manipulative individual who will sue her way to the top" and demanding her to step down from her post.

For Pao, the eight months she served as CEO were not easy. After saying that Reddit wasn't "a completely free speech platform" and shutting down fat-shaming subreddits that violated the firm's anti-harassment policy, Pao quickly became the subject of harassment by Redditors. That she lost a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers did not help Pao at all.

"It was sickening to see some of the things Redditors wrote about Ellen," said Sam Altman, a member of Reddit's board. "The reduction in compassion that happens when we're all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you. If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community."

Altman also says that Huffman's mission will be to continue the work Pao has started on cleaning up Reddit of the hate speech that often freely flows in a community of people hiding behind screen names. He says Reddit will create clearer guidelines to "preserve the integrity" of the community. Huffman's experience in mobile will also be useful in creating a better mobile experience for Redditors.

As for Pao, she will remain an advisor to the Reddit board for the moment, but her long-term plans currently center around getting a lot of sleep.

Photo: Christopher Michel | Flickr

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