Ewan Larkin
Jun 13, 2023

Unpacking Reddit's escalating API crisis

More than 3,000 subreddits have 'gone dark' as moderators protest Reddit's plans to charge other companies for access to data.

Apollo's developer said the new terms will cost $20 million a year. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Apollo's developer said the new terms will cost $20 million a year. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Reddit’s hefty new developer fees have prompted thousands of the social media company’s communities into a coordinated protest. 

More than 7,000 subreddits have gone private for two days starting on Monday in response to planned changes to the platform’s application programming interface fees. Access to Reddit’s API is now free, but the company’s new policy, effective on July 1, will charge developers to use its data and content

The updated terms have forced some third-party Reddit clients to shut down. 

Apollo for Reddit developer Christian Selig said it will cost him about $20 million a year to operate with Reddit’s proposed model, and that as a result, Apollo will “close down” on June 30. “Reddit's recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue,” Selig said last week. 

Tim Rathschmidt, director of consumer and product communications at Reddit, said that the company “spends multi-millions of dollars on hosting fees and Reddit needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps.”

He added that developers are responsible for the efficiency of their apps and experiences. Apollo, Rathschmidt said, is “notably less efficient than other third-party apps.” Reddit has published a chart that outlines apps’ average monthly overage. 

“The vast majority of API users will not have to pay for access; not all third-party apps usage requires paid access. The Reddit data API is free to use within the published rate limits so long as apps are not monetized,” Rathschmidt said. 

In an Ask Me Anything forum on Friday, after some communities started to go dark, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said, “We respect when you and your communities take action to highlight the things you need, including, at times, going private. We are all responsible for ensuring Reddit provides an open accessible place for people to find community and belonging.”

Huffman didn’t budge on API changes, saying Reddit “needs to be a self-sustaining business” and can no longer “subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use.”

Some publications have suggested that Reddit is searching for ways to bolster its revenue. The company, which confidentially filed for an IPO in December 2021, reportedly plans to debut as a publicly traded company this year when market conditions improve. 

During his forum, Huffman also described Selig’s behavior and communications “all over the place,” drawing criticism from users participating in the conversation. 

Huffman previously accused Selig of extortion after the latter questioned why Reddit was switching its API terms and not just buying popular third-party apps, as it did with former Reddit client Alien Blue in 2014. Selig clarified during the recorded phone call that his comment was “mostly a joke.”

“As the subreddit blackout begins, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Reddit community and everyone standing up. Let’s hope Reddit listens,” Selig said on Sunday night. 

 

Source:
PRWeek

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