Redditors To Stage Blackout As Sky-High API Fees Threaten The Demise Of Third-Party Apps

A multitude of major subreddits have decided to stage a temporary shutdown as a powerful protest against Reddit’s impending change that could spell doom for third-party Reddit apps. This change, set to take effect on July 1, would render it financially unviable for these apps to continue operating, causing an uproar among developers and users alike.

Christian Selig, the developer of the immensely popular Apollo app, revealed that the new API fees would cost him a staggering $20 million annually to keep his app functional. The announcement of these fees earlier this spring sent shockwaves through the third-party app community.

“It went from $0 to effectively $20 million a year if I kept the app as it is currently,” Selig expressed his disbelief.

Third-party apps like Apollo, Reddit Is Fun, Narwhal, and BaconReader offer users an alternative means of browsing, posting, and engaging with Reddit outside of the official app, which has long been plagued by bugs and bloatware. The accessibility and enhanced features provided by third-party apps have attracted a substantial user base, with Apollo alone boasting around 1.5 million monthly users.

Earlier this year, Reddit announced its decision to introduce charges for API access, following in the footsteps of Twitter. This move was preceded by a controversy surrounding the use of Reddit posts to train AI algorithms. The API allows developers, researchers, and third-party websites to create tools that enable Reddit access without relying on official apps. However, this pivotal change threatens to extinguish third-party apps that have played a vital role in Reddit’s growth and user satisfaction.

One significant group affected by this change is Reddit’s moderators, who heavily rely on third-party apps to access specific moderation tools absent in the official app. These dedicated individuals volunteer their time to maintain the site’s largest communities, ensuring a vibrant and well-moderated environment. The absence of proper tools in the official app would impede their efforts, potentially jeopardizing the quality of Reddit’s content.

With the dire consequences looming, over 100 subreddits have pledged to join the protest. Some will go dark from June 12 to 14, while others plan to adopt read-only or permanent dark statuses unless Reddit addresses the issue adequately.

Moderators are taking a stand, emphasizing the crucial role third-party apps play in maintaining their communities and expressing their love for Reddit. The mods of r/videos, a subreddit with 26 million subscribers, articulated their concerns, stating, “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 moderators of the subreddit r/videos said.

Another subreddit sporting 30 million users, r/pics, is also joining the protest, going dark on the same day.

“We believe that unity is essential in driving change and advocating for the rights of app developers and the overall user experience. To amplify our message and demonstrate the strength of our concerns, r/pics will be participating in a temporary blackout starting on June 12th, lasting for 48 hours,” the moderators said.

The impact extends beyond moderators, as third-party apps have become a lifeline for disabled individuals who rely on accessibility features provided by these apps. The unofficial apps offer tailored experiences for those with vision impairments or other disabilities, granting them access to Reddit that the official app fails to provide.

“Many of us on the mod team are also blind, and we depend on those third party apps to make sure that this community remains a safe, fun, and productive place,” the moderators of r/blind said.

A subreddit, r/Save3rdPartyApps, was created last week in an effort to rally the users to put pressure on Reddit regarding their API fees move.

“Reddit’s recent changes to API pricing threaten to destroy user access to a huge variety of quality-of-life features exclusive to apps like Apollo, Narwhal and Reddit is Fun. We’re here to stop it,” said the description of the subreddit. Currently, it has more than 28,000 subscribers.

The current situation and widespread backlash could have been averted had Reddit considered the predictable consequences of its pricing strategy. Following Elon Musk’s widely mocked decision to charge exorbitant rates for Twitter API access, it was expected that Reddit would opt for a more reasonable approach. Instead, developers were taken aback by the high prices, which Selig described as “whiplash” for everyone involved.

Reddit’s pricing strategy, based on API usage rather than user count, has presented challenges for developers seeking to maintain their apps while implementing nominal fees or introducing advertisements. With varying levels of usage among users, determining a fair pricing structure proves difficult. Selig proposed charging around $3 per month per user, but acknowledged the disparity between occasional and power users could make such a model unsustainable.

Despite the mounting opposition, Reddit appears resolute in its API pricing strategy, emphasizing the impact and cost of expansive data access. The platform insists on being a responsible steward of data, prioritizing safety and privacy. While Reddit claims to value the developer ecosystem, the new terms of service and premium access program indicate a shift toward stricter regulation.

Selig remains optimistic that the backlash will encourage Reddit to find a compromise that benefits both developers and the platform. He emphasizes his respect for Reddit and hopes for an equitable resolution that preserves the mutually beneficial relationship between developers and the platform.

Information for this briefing was found via Vice and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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