Reddit CEO Steve Huffman remains steadfast amidst the uproar over protests against API changes implemented by the platform. In interviews with The Verge, NBCNews, and NPR, Huffman staunchly defended the company’s business decisions to charge third-party apps, citing that the API was not originally intended to support such clients.
During these interviews, the Reddit co-founder addressed the concerns surrounding protesting moderators, the evolving site rules, and the platform’s profitability. Despite facing significant backlash from the community, Huffman appears resolute and unwilling to yield.
Unraveling the Current Happenings at Reddit
In April, Reddit announced introducing charges for its API without specifying the pricing details. Recently, Christian Selig, the developer behind the popular iOS Reddit client Apollo, said he had a conversation with Reddit regarding the API pricing. According to Selig, his app’s quoted API pricing could amount to a staggering $20 million annually. With the social network’s unwillingness to alter the pricing structure, Selig decided to shut down Apollo. Similarly, other third-party developers of Reddit clients, such as Reddit is Fun and Relay for Reddit, declared their apps’ closure by June 30.
Although Reddit granted an exception for non-commercial apps that provide accessibility features, allowing them free access to the API, it imposed its “large-scale pricing terms” on other developers. The company agreed with apps like RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna, exempting them from the new pricing structure.
Thousands of subreddits initiated a blackout on June 12 to express their discontent with these changes, resulting in a brief service interruption. Amid this, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman took a firm stance during his Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, indirectly criticizing Apollo and Selig. With moderators witnessing no change, numerous subreddits extended their blackout period.
Subreddit Protests Escalate as Moderators Take a Stand Against Reddit’s API Pricing Policy
During an interview, Huffman made controversial remarks about protesting moderators as “landed gentry.” He compared political and business accountability to the constituents or shareholders. He suggested that Reddit’s system is closer to inherited privilege than democracy, where early moderators hold power and pass it down to their descendants.
Huffman intended to introduce changes to the moderator policies, allowing users to vote them out. Higher-ranking moderators or the company itself have the authority to remove moderators. Interestingly, a moderator from the r/Apple subreddit posted on Twitter that Reddit had threatened to remove moderators participating in an indefinite blackout.
In a recent blog post, Reddit highlighted its Moderator Code of Conduct, emphasizing its value on dissent, debate, and discussions as integral aspects of the platform. The company stated that it respects the right to protest. However, the Code of Conduct also outlines the possibility of removing moderators who exhibit uncooperative behavior.
Despite these statements, Huffman clarified that Reddit has no plans to invest in paid moderators or take actions that consolidate power within the company. Reddit relies on unpaid moderators to monitor and maintain its communities. According to a study conducted last year, these dedicated volunteers spend approximately 466 hours daily on community management. The study further estimated that if Reddit were to compensate them at a rate of $20 per hour, it would be an annual cost of $3.4 million.
Third-Party App Exodus: Reddit’s API Pricing Forces Shutdowns of Popular Client Apps
A significant point of contention in the ongoing protests revolves around the fate of third-party apps. Reddit has reiterated its commitment to providing free access to the data API, exempting non-commercialized apps like bots from payment obligations.
In recent weeks, Huffman has emphasized the need for commercialization and profitability for Reddit. As part of this strategy, charging for API usage has been proposed. In recent interviews, Huffman expressed a willingness to collaborate with developers and discussed the possibility of offering them a more extended transition period. He explained that certain apps generate millions of dollars annually using Reddit’s data while the company incurs infrastructure costs of up to $10 million annually.
Huffman acknowledged his role in spearheading the policy change affecting these apps within the company. Reddit has been discussing modifications to API regulations for several years.
In a recent blog post, Reddit announced that 80% of the top 5,000 communities with high daily active users are now open. CEO Huffman referred to the protesting group as a small but vocal minority, stating that the larger Reddit community supports them. Despite causing some disruption, the protests have not significantly affected the company’s revenue. However, certain advertisers paused campaigns during the blackout. Huffman expressed Reddit’s focus on profitability before considering an IPO. Moderators are exploring ways to enhance the impact of blackouts, while some communities are seeking alternatives on platforms like Lemmy and Kbin.