You’ll need to find a site other than Reddit to distract you from work today, because thousands of subreddits are going dark in protest of the company’s recent API updates.
Nearly 3,500 subreddits will be inaccessible for the next 48 hours and perhaps much longer, according to the BBC. The protest includes five of the 10 most popular forums, such as r/gaming, r/aww, and r/todayilearned.
What are they protesting?
In April, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said the company would begin to charge for access to its application programming interface (API), which allows third-party developers to tap into Reddit’s vast trove of data to build their own apps or train AI chatbots like ChatGPT.
Huffman told the NYT that this data is valuable and that it doesn’t make business sense to keep giving it away for free. (Elon Musk made a similar decision at Twitter earlier this year, revoking free API access and introducing paid tiers.)
But it’s being called way too expensive
Key players in the Reddit ecosystem say they can’t afford to pay for API access and will need to shut down, sparking outrage toward Reddit’s leadership.
Who are these key players? Third-party Reddit apps.
- If you’re not deep in the Reddit world, you might not know that many users consume Reddit not through Reddit’s official app, but through third-party apps that use Reddit’s API.
- These apps show Reddit content but aim to improve the site’s famously janky user experience by adding features like customizable gestures and an easier-to-read comments layout.
And the new pricing plan would put them out of business. The developer behind the most-used Reddit app, Apollo, shocked the internet when he wrote that Reddit’s new API pricing would cost him $20 million per year to keep operating the app. Unable to afford that, Apollo and other third-party Reddit apps will shut down on June 30, the day before the pricing plan goes into effect.
Big picture: Reddit’s push to monetize its API right now is not a coincidence—the company is planning to IPO this year, and adding a new revenue stream could boost its valuation before hitting the public markets. But by trying to beef up its stats line, Reddit has lost the trust of its most engaged users.