In a coordinated effort, over 8,000 subreddits have gone dark or read-only to protest against Reddit’s upcoming changes to its API pricing. The changes, set to take effect on July 1, will impose high fees on third-party apps, resulting in the shutdown of popular apps like Apollo and Reddit is Fun. Tens of thousands of moderators and millions of Reddit users have joined forces to make their voices heard in a two-day blackout that began on Monday.
During the blackout period, participating subreddits will be private, preventing nonsubscribers from accessing existing content and restricting subscribers from posting or commenting on new content. Some subreddits will remain in read-only mode. To further demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the API changes, participants are encouraged to leave negative reviews of the official Reddit app and support alternative non-Reddit platforms, thereby reducing the site’s traffic.
The ongoing thread in r/ModCoord, monitored by moderators, is keeping track of the participating subreddits. As of Monday afternoon, an impressive number of 28,606 moderators and 8,300 subreddits have pledged their support for the movement. Several subreddits have even threatened to permanently shut down unless Reddit adequately addresses the concerns raised by its users, as stated in a post in r/Save3rdPartyApps. Notable subreddits participating in the blackout include r/funny, r/aww, r/gaming, r/Music, r/Pics, r/science, and r/todayilearned. The combined userbase of all protesting subreddits amounts to a staggering 2.8 billion, with many users subscribed to multiple participating subreddits. Interested individuals can witness the real-time blackout of subreddits on Twitch.
However, the two-day blackout is just the beginning of the protest. As stated in an instructional post on r/Save3rdPartyApps, if Reddit fails to address the concerns by June 14, the community intends to use the momentum and support garnered thus far to take further action.
In response to the protest, a Reddit spokesperson directed TechCrunch to Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s recent AMA post. Huffman acknowledged the importance of user action in highlighting their needs and expressed the company’s commitment to providing an open and accessible space for communities to thrive.
The root cause of the protest lies in Reddit’s decision to introduce pricing for API access, which has been free until now. API access enables third-party apps to interact with the Reddit website, allowing users to upvote, comment, browse subreddits, and perform other interactions. These API requests fetch data from Reddit, enabling third-party apps to offer enhanced features such as accessibility options for visually impaired users and superior mod tools for moderators. However, starting July 1, API access will be subject to pricing based on data usage, rendering it financially unviable for many independent developers running widely-used apps like Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync. The proposed pricing structure would cost Apollo a staggering $20 million per year, as stated by Apollo developer Christian Selig. Even increasing subscription fees would not make it economically feasible to continue the app’s operations. Additionally, the new API policy also imposes restrictions on NSFW content and potentially allows disruptive behaviors like spam and karma farming to flourish, as highlighted in an open letter from r/ModCoord.
Reddit justifies its decision, citing the need to balance financial obligations and the sustainability of the platform. The company claims that the pricing changes are based on usage levels comparable to its own costs. Reddit incurs substantial hosting fees, and the new pricing structure is aimed at compensating the company for supporting high-usage third-party apps. The spokesperson further added that app developers are responsible for the efficiency of their apps, mentioning that Apollo is less efficient compared to other third-party apps. As long as the apps remain non-monetized, access to Reddit API remains free.
Certain exceptions will be made for non-commercial moderation tools, such as Toolbox, Context Mod, Remind Me, and anti-spam detection bots, which will continue to enjoy free access to Reddit API. Additionally, specific accessibility apps will also be exempted. These measures were outlined in a post on r/modnews.
The repercussions of the API pricing changes have resonated across the Reddit community, leading to the current blackout. While awaiting a response from Reddit, users continue to voice their concerns, with the hope that concrete promises for more developer-friendly policies and an acknowledgment of mishandling the process will be made. The community believes that even minor steps can make a substantial difference in regaining community trust and confidence.
As the blackout progresses, Reddit’s front page remains relatively quiet. One notable post, however, stands out—an appreciative note from Christian Selig, the creator of the Apollo app, expressing gratitude and garnering over 137,000 upvotes on r/apolloapp.
The ongoing protest signifies the determination of Reddit users and moderators to preserve the platform’s rich ecosystem. As the blackout continues, the future of third-party apps and the accessibility and quality of user experiences on Reddit remain uncertain.