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Reddit CEO escalates Apollo developer attack in drama-filled AMA

Reddit’s controversial API pricing change that’s driving third-party apps out of business has taken a strange turn. In an AMA today, Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, aka u/spez, doubled down on accusations against the developer of the popular third-party app Apollo, which the company had previously accused of operating inefficiently and not being a good “API” user.

Huffman’s AMA confirmed that the company won’t change its API changes despite community backlash, including a site-wide protest from thousands of subreddits. Huffman also criticized Apollo developer Christian Selig’s “behavior and communications” as “all over the place” and said Reddit wouldn’t work with him.

Selig was the first to warn that Reddit’s new API pricing would make the Apollo app unviable. He explained that under the new terms, it would cost $20 million per year—money the app doesn’t make. Selig announced this week that the app would close on June 30, ahead of the July 1 API pricing change.

Sync, RIF, and Reddplant are other third-party apps closing.

Huffman initially accused Selig of extortion, according to Selig’s lengthy post on Reddit.

Selig questioned why Reddit was changing its API terms to put third-party apps out of business rather than buying them out like it did with Alien Blue, an older Reddit client it acquired in 2014. He suggested Reddit pay him $20 million per year to shut down Apollo. His remark sounds like a joke. “This is mostly a joke,” he said on the call.

It seems like an attempt to understand why the company would make a move that will anger its community. It has.

Selig said a Reddit representative on the call initially misinterpreted his comment as a “threat.” On the call, the contact apologized and clarified. Selig recorded the call (legal in Canada) and brought receipts.

Huffman later called Selig “threatening” Reddit in a moderator call.

Reddit’s stance hasn’t changed, Huffman said today.

One AMA participant asked Huffman, “what were you thinking with your attempt to discredit Apollo by claiming that Christian threatened and blackmailed you?”

Surprising response. Huffman answered bluntly, unlike most companies that use corporate PR speak.

“His ‘joke’ is the least of our issues,” the CEO wrote. “His behavior and communications with us has been all over the place—saying one thing to us while saying something completely different externally; recording and leaking a private phone call—so I don’t know how we could do business with him.”

Apollo’s iOS-first and user-friendly design was featured at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this week, before Reddit’s API policy change put it out of business.

After this debacle, prominent developers have supported Selig.

Halide co-founder Sebastiaan de With tweeted on Thursday that Reddit management was lying, slandering, and vilifying Selig. Quote-tweeters agreed.


Huffman seems unconcerned about these decisions’ consequences, site-wide protest or not, unless Reddit’s board intervenes.

He fielded several API-related questions in the AMA. These ranged from those questioning the model (why not a profit-sharing model like Epic does with Unreal?) and the compressed timeframe to those questioning Reddit’s shift to profit over community engagement. “We’ll stay profit-driven until profits arrive,” the CEO said. We’re unprofitable, unlike some 3P apps.

Huffman said Apollo, Reddit is fun, and Sync will close before API pricing takes effect. We’ll discuss the other apps. We acknowledge that our timeline was tight, but we are happy to work with people who want to.”

“This is a blatant lie,” ReddPlanet’s developer (u/lupeski) said in the comments. Another indie app developer said they had requested enterprise API access three times with no response.

Reddit had already reported on the rest of the AMA. The API changes’ community backlash hasn’t swayed the company. As stated, a few accessibility-focused apps will remain in the carve-out.

Huffman also clarified that while the NYT piece framed the API pricing changes as a way to limit access to its forums, which have become a training ground for large language models (LLMs), this is not the only reason. The company spends “tens of millions of dollars” supporting the third-party app ecosystem, which needs to be curtailed. (And it’s “actively discussing” with Reddit-training AI companies.)

As part of a “stricter” regulatory environment, mature content will be limited via its Data API on July 5, 2023, but explicit content will still be allowed, the exec said.

r/Save3rdPartyApps, a community formed after the API changes, provides a more readable AMA overview. The forum has over 50,000 members.

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