Several prominent Reddit communities, such as r/videos, r/reactiongifs, r/earthporn, and r/lifeprotips, are preparing to go private on June 12th in protest against the proposed pricing changes for third-party app developers to access Reddit’s APIs. Going private, also known as “going dark,” will render these communities inaccessible to the general public during the 48-hour planned protest.
An original Reddit post regarding the upcoming protest has been cross-posted to multiple participating subreddits. The post sheds light on the purpose and details of the protest. “On June 12th, many subreddits will be going dark to protest this policy. Some will return after 48 hours: others will go away permanently unless the issue is adequately addressed, since many moderators aren’t able to put in the work they do with the poor tools available through the official app. This isn’t something any of us do lightly: we do what we do because we love Reddit, and we truly believe this change will make it impossible to keep doing what we love.”
The participation list comprises numerous subreddits, totaling in the hundreds, with several having a subscriber base of over a million each.
The protest stems from concerns raised by developers of various third-party Reddit apps who believe that the viability of their services is under threat due to the new pricing model implemented by the company. One such example is the developer of Apollo, who highlighted that their app currently generates 7 billion monthly requests, resulting in a projected cost of $1.7 million for accessing Reddit’s API, or $20 million annually. The developer, Christian Selig, expressed astonishment at the pricing, emphasizing that it is neither grounded in reality nor remotely reasonable. Selig further mentioned the impossibility of affording such an excessive amount or even having the means to charge it to a credit card.
Subreddit Moderators Concerned About Impact on Community Management
Nevertheless, a Reddit employee has countered the concerns by stating that the new API charges would be affordable if third-party apps efficiently used API calls. According to their argument, the pricing stands at $0.24 per 1000 API calls, which translates to less than $1.00 per user on a monthly basis for a reasonably operated app. They further suggested that Apollo, in particular, has been less efficient than its counterparts, potentially due to its unrestricted nature resulting from being free.
However, other developers of third-party Reddit apps have echoed similar apprehensions. Reddit is Fun expressed that it would need to pay a sum comparable to Apollo’s to sustain its operations, despite not generating anywhere close to such an amount in revenue. The developer of Narwhal stated that the charges would effectively render their app defunct within a month.
The potential shutdown of third-party apps poses a significant challenge for subreddit moderators who heavily rely on these tools to effectively manage their communities. In an open letter signed by numerous subreddit moderators, BuckRowdy highlighted the superior mod tools, customization options, streamlined interfaces, and overall quality of life improvements offered by these apps compared to the official Reddit app. They emphasized that the pricing changes could substantially negatively impact their ability to moderate efficiently.
History of Protests and Industry Context: API Pricing Changes of Reddit
The open letter not only addresses the concerns regarding the new API pricing but also raises issues regarding the display of ads within third-party apps. Additionally, there are worries about the new restrictions that would prevent the availability of NSFW (not safe for work) content through the API.
Protests and collective actions within Reddit’s history are not uncommon. In 2021, numerous Reddit communities went into lockdown to express their discontent with the platform’s handling of a controversy involving a former UK politician previously hired by Reddit (later terminated by the company). Similarly, moderators took collective action the previous year to protest against Reddit’s policies on hate speech.
Reddit decided to revise its API pricing structure shortly after Twitter’s complete ban on third-party clients and implemented a more restrictive pricing model for API access. Reports suggest that Reddit is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO), which could explain the restructured API access fees.