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Reddit CEO blasts protests, moderators, and third-party apps

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman is unfazed by platform API protests. Huffman told The Verge, NBCNews, and NPR that the API was not designed to support third-party apps.

In these interviews, the Reddit co-founder discussed protesting moderators, site rules, and profitability. The platform’s CEO seems unmoved by the community’s strongest backlash.

Reddit—what’s up?
Reddit announced in April that it would charge for its API but did not provide a price. Apollo’s developer, Christian Selig, posted that Reddit called him earlier this month. Their API pricing could cost $20 million a year to run the app. Selig later said he had to shut down Apollo because the social network would not change the pricing structure. Other third-party clients like Reddit is Fun and Relay for Reddit will also shut down on June 30.

Reddit only granted free API access to non-commercial accessibility apps. RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna are exempt from the company’s “large-scale pricing terms” thanks to deals.

The protests caused a brief outage on June 12. In his AMA, Huffman attacked Apollo and Selig. Many subreddits extended the blackout because moderators saw no change.

Moderated protests
Huffman called protesting moderators “landed gentry” in one interview.

Politicians and businesspeople are accountable to their constituents. He said a politician must be elected and a business owner can be fired by shareholders.

“I think Reddit is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic.”

He plans to change moderator policies so users can vote them out. Higher-ranking moderators or the company can fire moderators. A r/Apple moderator tweeted (via 9to5Mac) that Reddit was threatening to remove moderators staging an indefinite blackout.

Reddit says “Dissent, debate, and discussions are foundational parts of Reddit” and respects protests in a blog post that links to its Moderator Code of Conduct. The rules allow the company to fire uncooperative moderators.

Huffman denied that Reddit would hire paid moderators or centralize power.

That suggests the company prefers unpaid moderators to manage communities. Last year’s study estimated they spend 466 hours per day maintaining these communities. If Reddit paid $20 per hour, it would cost $3.4 million annually.

External apps
These protests focused on third-party apps. Reddit has repeatedly stated that it will continue to provide free data API access to bots and other non-commercial apps.

Huffman has discussed Reddit commercialization and profitability in recent weeks. This process includes API charging. In the latest interviews, he said Reddit is “perfectly willing to work with the folks who want to work with us” and discussed giving developers a longer transition period. Huffman told The Verge that Reddit has to pay up to $10 million in infrastructure costs while some of these apps make millions using its data.

He told the publication that he was responsible for this company policy change that affected these apps. The company has apparently discussed API rule changes for years.

Reddit’s API wasn’t designed for third-party apps. Allowing it. I’m to blame because I argued for that for a long time. I didn’t realize how much they profited from our API, which was my fault. Huffman said these weren’t charities.

Numbers game
Reddit announced on Thursday that 80% of the top 5,000 daily active user communities are open. Huffman told NPR that protestors are a “small group that’s very upset” and the “greater Reddit community” is supporting them.

Despite causing “a fair amount of trouble,” these protests didn’t affect the company’s revenue. Some advertisers paused campaigns during the blackout, according to reports. More ad tools are being released to attract advertisers.

Huffman said 97% of Reddit’s 57 million daily active users use the site or official app. Reddit has promised to add more features to its moderator tools, which are used for 93% of moderator actions, according to the blog post. The post and Huffman’s comments suggest that protests are led by a small group of users and don’t represent a larger user base.

The CEO prioritizes profitability over a Reddit IPO. He told The Verge that “a few things I’d like to do with Reddit before we get there” would precede an IPO.

Huffman’s comments prompted moderators to improve blackouts. Some communities also host servers on Lemmy and Kbin.

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