Reddit faces backlash as thousands of subreddits go dark in protest against API access charges

Pranav Bhardwaj

Reddit faces backlash as thousands of subreddits go dark

In a bold move to protest against Reddit’s decision to charge third-party apps for API access, thousands of discussion forums on the platform have temporarily closed their virtual doors. Over 6,500 subreddits, including some of the most popular ones, have joined the blackout, demonstrating the widespread discontent among moderators and users.

The backlash was triggered by Reddit’s announcement on April 18, stating that it would begin charging for access to its application programming interface (API) for third-party entities seeking additional capabilities, higher usage limits, and broader usage rights. This new pricing structure is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2023. While Reddit CEO Steve Huffman acknowledged the frustration expressed by many moderators, he emphasized the need for the platform to become self-sustaining, stating that they can no longer subsidize commercial entities relying on large-scale data usage.

However, app developers argue that Reddit’s monetization of API access will force them to shut down. Christian Selig, the developer of the Reddit client app Apollo, estimated that the new pricing structure would cost his app up to $20 million per year, leading to its imminent closure on June 30.

Protesting moderators and users argue that Reddit’s decision to charge for API access will have a detrimental impact on their communities. They highlight the fact that Reddit relies on volunteer moderators to maintain a welcoming environment and keep objectionable content at bay. Moreover, the platform’s communities thrive due to the uncompensated contributions of users who provide content. These protesters claim that without effective tools to combat spammers and bad actors, moderators will be unable to fulfill their roles, and many contributors will simply leave. While these solutions were not developed by Reddit, they played a vital role in the platform’s growth and appeal.

In this aspect, Reddit resembles Wikipedia, where volunteer editors are considered an invaluable resource. Unlike platforms such as Instagram or YouTube, Reddit owes much of its success to the unpaid contributions and efforts of its users who developed features that the company itself did not prioritize.

This battle extends beyond Reddit itself and raises broader questions about the value creators in social networks and who reap the rewards. It reflects growing public skepticism towards technology platforms that have achieved economic dominance by exploiting vast amounts of personal information.

The ongoing blackout and protest on Reddit serve as a powerful reminder that the relationship between platform owners, developers, moderators, and users is complex and that the value derived from a platform’s success should be shared equitably.

Via: Variety