Reddit, the popular social network, has recently undergone significant changes to its data API, leading to a turbulent month filled with conflicts and protests. The CEO of Reddit defended the company’s decision in interviews, but it resulted in clashes with developers and moderators, as well as numerous subreddits going dark and staging various forms of protest.
With the API changes and rate limits coming into effect on July 1, Reddit is now preparing for a new phase with fewer third-party apps and a stronger focus on its own applications. However, these changes have left the community dissatisfied. Let’s delve into what has transpired over the past month and what the future holds for Reddit.
At the beginning of June, Christian Selig, the developer of the popular Reddit client Apollo, revealed that the API pricing changes would cost his app nearly $20 million per month to operate. This announcement sparked concerns among other third-party Reddit app developers who shared similar worries about their future. In response, many subreddits decided to go dark on June 12-14 as a form of protest against the changes. Meanwhile, Selig announced that he would be shutting down Apollo by the end of the month. Other apps, such as Reddit is Fun and Sync for Reddit, also declared their closure. Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, held an intense Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the site, defending the decision and attacking Selig while asserting that Reddit would prioritize profits.
Huffman’s interviews and the blackout of thousands of subreddits prompted a series of responses from Selig and other developers, debunking Reddit’s claim that they had attempted to work with developers. Selig revealed that in a call earlier this year, he specifically asked about any planned API changes, and Reddit stated there would be none. While the June 12-14 protest did affect site traffic and even Google search results, Reddit maintained that it did not impact revenue. Consequently, some subreddits extended their blackout, and some even allowed their communities to vote on their future course.
As Reddit admins threatened to reopen the subreddits, these communities resorted to alternative forms of protest, such as posting pictures of John Oliver, organizing blackout days, and shifting their community focus. Reddit also cracked down on subreddits that labeled themselves as NSFW (Not Safe for Work). They removed moderators from communities like r/interestingasfuck, r/mildlyinteresting, and r/TIHI (Thanks, I hate it). It is worth noting that NSFW subs do not allow ads, so the significant number of communities changing their status could impact advertising revenue.
The aftermath and ongoing protests As reported by The Verge, r/TranscribersOfReddit, a volunteer subreddit that provided media transcriptions, decided to shut down. The report also highlighted that moderators relied on third-party apps for accessibility tools, which were not available in Reddit’s own app. Although Reddit exempted apps like RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna from the API changes due to their accessibility features, moderators have pointed out that these apps may lack adequate moderator tools. When some communities chose to remain private, Reddit admins sent messages to moderators, urging them to open up within 48 hours.
Consequently, communities like r/Photography and r/homeimprovement have reopened, but either with relaxed rules or in restricted mode. Contrary to the platform’s rules, r/pics is now marked as NSFW. Additionally, r/videos is posting text descriptions of videos, indicating that the protest is still ongoing in some form. Apps such as Apollo, Sync for Reddit, BaconReader, and Boost for Reddit have shut down.