Reddit, a significant hub of online communities, is facing an unprecedented protest from several of its largest subreddits, including r/videos, r/reactiongifs, r/earthporn, and r/lifeprotips. The protest revolves around new pricing for third-party app developers to access the site’s APIs, and it is set to escalate on June 12th, with numerous communities planning to go private or ‘go dark’, rendering themselves inaccessible to the wider public for a period of 48 hours.
The ongoing situation was revealed through a Reddit post which has since been cross-posted to several participating subreddits. The post detailed the communities’ collective concern about the new API pricing and its potential impact on their ability to operate. Many of these communities have expressed that they may have to cease their activities permanently unless the issue is adequately addressed, as the new API pricing is deemed unsustainable for several third-party app developers.
The cause of the outcry is the change in pricing for API access, which has been set at $0.24 per 1000 API calls. This change has been met with concern and resistance by third-party developers, who argue that the new pricing model is prohibitive. Christian Selig, the developer behind Apollo, a popular third-party Reddit app, stated that under the new pricing, Apollo would need to pay $1.7 million per month or $20 million a year, given its current rate of making 7 billion requests per month. Selig argued, “I don’t see how this pricing is anything based in reality or remotely reasonable”.
Other developers of third-party Reddit apps have expressed similar concerns. Developers behind the apps Reddit is Fun and Narwhal also shared concerns about the sustainability of their services under the new pricing. The developer behind Narwhal went as far as to say the app will be “dead in 30 days” as a result of the charges.
The situation raises particular challenges for subreddit moderators, who often rely on third-party apps to manage their communities. These apps often offer superior mod tools, customization, streamlined interfaces, and other quality of life improvements that the official app does not offer. The potential loss of these services due to the pricing change would significantly impact the ability to moderate efficiently.
In addition to the new API pricing, the open letter also raised concerns about the ability of third-party apps to display ads, a key source of revenue, and new restrictions that would prevent NSFW (not safe for work) content from being made available via the API. Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt stated that most users of the API wouldn’t need to pay for access, and that API access is free for mod tools and bots. However, the situation remains complex and contested.
This is not the first time Reddit has seen protests of this nature. In 2021, hundreds of Reddit communities locked down to protest the site’s handling of a controversy around a former UK politician it had hired. Moderators took similar collective action the previous year inprotest over Reddit’s hate speech policies. This protest comes not long after Twitter announced a more restrictive pricing structure for access to its APIs, having outright banned third-party clients. It’s worth noting that Reddit is reportedly planning to go public later this year, which could provide some context for these restructuring fees for API access.
As the protest looms, many eyes will be on Reddit to see how it responds to the outcry from its user base. The platform’s approach to this controversy will have significant implications not only for third-party developers and the moderators of major communities, but also for the wider Reddit community and its millions of users.