Reddit, a popular online platform that facilitates millions of discussions on a wide variety of subjects, is experiencing pushback from some of its largest and most active communities as a result of the platform's recent decision to charge users to access its application programming interface (API) (API).
The Application Programming Interface (API) is a collection of tools that third-party developers can use to build apps and services that interact with the content and features offered by Reddit. These apps provide greater customization, functionality, and user experience than the official Reddit app and website, so many users prefer these apps.
However, in April, Reddit announced it would begin charging a fee of $0.24 per 1000 API requests made by third-party apps that are more than the number of requests permitted for free. As a result, applications that send a high volume of requests to Reddit's servers, such as retrieving posts, comments, votes, and messages, among other things, will be required to pay a significant fee to keep operating at the same scale. For instance, Apollo, one of the most popular Reddit apps for iOS, made 7 billion requests in the previous month.
According to the new pricing structure, this would result in a monthly fee of $1.7 million and a yearly fee of $20 million. The developer of Apollo claimed that this sum was implausible and unaffordable for him and that he would still incur a financial loss even if he retained only the paying subscribers of his app. He said this in his statement.
Other third-party Reddit app developers have voiced similar concerns about the new pricing structure, stating that it would render their apps unsustainable and force them to either cease operations or reduce the number of features they offer. Some of them also argued that Reddit's API pricing is unfair and inconsistent because it does not consider the apps' effectiveness and optimization and penalizes apps with users who are more active and engaged in the platform's content.
In response to these complaints, Reddit stated that its pricing is based on usage and is working with outside app developers to help them become more effective and reduce the costs associated with their apps. However, many app developers and users are unsatisfied with this explanation and believe that Reddit is attempting to coerce financial contributions from them or force them out of business.
As a direct consequence of this, hundreds of subreddits, which are user-created communities devoted to particular subjects or interests, have decided to stage a protest against the pricing changes implemented by Reddit's API by going private for forty-eight hours beginning on June 12th. Making these subreddits private means discussion will be hidden from the general public and only visible to the members who are approved to view them.
Some of these subreddits, such as r/videos, r/reactiongifs, r/earthporn, and r/lifeprotips, among others, each have millions of subscribers and are considered to be among the most popular and influential on Reddit. The demonstration organizers have stated that they are participating in this activity to demonstrate their support for third-party app developers and put pressure on Reddit to rethink its policy.
It is not the first time that subreddits have made it private to voice their disapproval of decisions or actions made by Reddit. Reddit terminated the employment of a well-liked employee who coordinated with moderators in 2015, which resulted in the closure of hundreds of subreddits. As a form of protest against Reddit's inaction against harassment and hate speech on its platform in 2019, several subreddits have become private. These demonstrations have frequently resulted in a great deal of attention and criticism from both the media and the general public, and they have occasionally compelled Reddit to either apologize or alter its course of action.
However, the efficacy of this most recent protest in persuading Reddit to revise its API pricing changes or provide additional support for third-party app developers remains unaffected. Some users have argued that making subreddits private won't improve anything for the subreddits or their regular users, and it won't change Reddit's revenue or reputation either. Others have proposed alternative methods of protest, such as refraining from using the official Reddit app or website or migrating to a different platform. These are just two examples.
Since Reddit is planning to go public by the end of this year and is primarily concerned with increasing the number of advertisers and investors, some users have expressed skepticism that the company will give the protest any consideration.
This protest demonstrates how significant third-party apps are for many Reddit users and how highly they value the variety and innovation these apps bring to the platform, regardless of the outcome of the protest itself. It also demonstrates how the company's business decisions can strain Reddit's relationship with its communities and moderators and how those decisions are communicated and implemented. Reddit will need to balance its interests and goals and those of its users and developers as it continues to expand and mature, or it risks losing their trust and loyalty.