Reddit had a rough month after changing its data API. In the past month, Reddit’s CEO gave interviews defending the company’s decision, the social network fought with developers and moderators, and many subreddits went dark and protested.
Since the API changes and rate limits went into effect on July 1, Reddit is preparing for fewer third-party apps, more focus on its own apps, and an unhappy community. This story examines the past month and the future.
Reddit’s June controversy
Apollo developer Christian Selig said he spoke with Reddit management in early June. His app would cost nearly $20 million per month due to API pricing. Many third-party Reddit app developers expressed concerns about their future after this post and the company’s changes.
Many subreddits went dark June 12-14 to protest these changes. By month’s end, Selig would close Apollo. Reddit Fun and Sync for Reddit also closed. In a dramatic AMA, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman defended his decision, saying Reddit would “continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive” and attacking Selig.
Huffman gave interviews as thousands of subreddits went dark. He called protesting moderators “landed gentry” and proposed redefining moderator rules so the community can vote them out. Huffman also complained that Reddit paid $10 million per year for infrastructure while third-party developers made money.
Selig and other developers countered Reddit’s claim about working with developers. In his post, Selig said he asked the company about API changes in a call earlier this year and was told there would be none.
The June 12-14 protest affected traffic and Google search, but the company claimed no revenue impact. Some subreddits extended the blackout and asked their communities to decide their future. These communities protested by posting John Oliver pictures, declaring blackout days, and changing their focus as Reddit admins threatened to reopen subreddits.
NSFW subreddits were also rebuked by the company. r/interstingasfuck, r/midlyinteresting, and r/TIHI (Thanks I hate it) lost moderators. NSFW subs aren’t allowed ads, so a lot of communities changing their status could hurt advertising revenue.
r/TranscribersOfReddit, a volunteer media transcription subreddit, closed last month, The Verge reported. Reddit’s app lacks accessibility tools, so moderators used third-party apps.
Due to accessibility features, the company exempted RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna from API changes. These apps may lack moderator tools, moderators say.
Reddit admins contacted moderators to open up private communities within 48 hours. Thus, r/Photography and r/homeimprovement have opened with either relaxed or restricted rules. r/pics is now NSFW, even though the platform forbids mislabeling communities. r/videos describes videos in text. The protest continues.
Apollo, Sync, BaconReader, and Boost for Reddit have closed. Relay, Now for Reddit, and Narwhal developers are testing a subscription model while making their apps free.
Moderators keep protesting the changes. The Verge reported that r/IAMA moderators will stop coordinating celebrity interviews.
Reddit announced weekend accessibility improvements to moderation tools. Over the weekend, r/Blind moderators reported that Reddit app bugs prevented them from steering the community. The subreddit also demanded that the social network hire a “Chief Accessibility Officer” to improve accessibility.
The company’s blog post, “Key Facts to Understanding Reddit’s Recent API Updates,” mentioned an external accessibility audit but didn’t provide details. The social media platform exempted RedReader, Luna, and Dystopia from API fees. This keeps accessibility-focused apps free. The company did not disclose the exemption criteria for apps.
As IPO rumors intensify, the company is focused on profitability. Huffman told The Verge that an IPO is “something we’d like to do someday,” but there are “a few things I’d like to do with Reddit before we get there.”
Kbin and Lemmy are examples of communities moving. These platforms have smaller communities than subreddits with thousands or millions of users.
Reddit’s recent actions haven’t destroyed the third-party ecosystem, but they’ve made it difficult for developers to create a sustainable model without high costs. These changes have also made communities uncomfortable and forced them to use tools they may not have wanted.
The company appears unmoved, so API pricing changes are unlikely.