Some of Reddit’s most popular communities will shut down today in protest of “ridiculous” price changes.
The main subsections of the platform gamblewith more than 37 million members; musicwith 32.3 million; and r/todayilearned, a page dedicated to sharing facts with its 31.8 million members, are also among those shutting down.
Pages dedicated to specific fandoms, including harry potter and Taylor Swiftalso decided to go offline.
While some communities involved in the outage said they would return in 48 hours, others said they might have to wait until Reddit Retrace its upcoming changes.
In April, Reddit announced that it would start charging developers to access its API, which stands for Application Programming Interface.
It allows third parties to access information on the platform, and most importantly, developers can run alternate smartphone apps for users who don’t prefer the official Reddit app.
Access to the API has been free for everyone so far, but starting June 19 there will be a fee.
Wait, explain the API again…
Reddit’s database is stuffed with everything that makes up Reddit—posts, comments, profiles, and more.
Whenever you use the Reddit app, you’re actually asking the platform’s API for permission to view the posts, comments, and profiles you want to see.
Like the staff at the entrance to the British Museum, until now it just waved you through without cash – but now it asks for payment.
This isn’t a problem if you go straight to Reddit, either via the web or its app, but it means that for third-party developers, the cost is passed on to them.
Is it about getting expensive?
Reddit has not publicly disclosed exact pricing details, but developers of the popular third-party app Apollo claim they would be billed more than $20 million (£15.9 million) a year at current API usage rates.
“The price they’re offering is $0.24 for 1,000 API calls,” says a post on Apollo’s own subreddit (“call” being one of the aforementioned requests).
“Based on my current usage [that] That would cost close to $2 million a month, or over $20 million a year. “
Why can’t people just use the official app?
Crucially here, while Reddit launched way back in 2005, it didn’t release its own app until 2016.
This means that over the years, users have had to rely on third-party apps, and many have become so used to their first choice that they’ve stuck with them, never resorting to the official apps.
Popular options include Apollo, Narwhal, Relay, and Infinity.
These apps differentiate themselves from official Reddit with their own aesthetic and functionality, and are not subject to Unwelcome changes Reddit made to its own app.
Apollo, Reddit Is Fun, Sync, and ReddPlanet have all said they will be forced to shut down on June 30, while others may follow suit or start charging users to keep up with costs.
What did the offline subreddits say?
Some of the communities that decided to close today did so after consulting with their members.
R/gaming said its members “overwhelmingly support Blackout,” as it said Reddit’s API changes would make third-party apps “ridiculously expensive for developers to run.”
The music subreddit will not be accessible to members or general visitors for 48 hours, and people are encouraged to contact Reddit to express their objection to the new policy.
The moderators of the Harry Potter subreddit have written an open letter urging Reddit to reconsider API fees in order to “protect the rich ecosystem developed around the platform.”
Taylor Swift subreddit and others have also raised concerns about the impact on users with disabilities, saying some third-party apps offer better accessibility options than Reddit.
What did Reddit say?
Reddit has defended its upcoming API fees, saying the platform needs to “pay fairly.”
“Broad access to data has implications and costs; we spend millions in hosting fees and Reddit needs to be paid fairly to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps,” said a statement from Sky News .
“Our pricing is based on usage levels that we measure to be comparable to our own costs.”
Developers can make their maps “more efficient” to reduce the number of API calls required, the company said, adding that access to moderation tools and bots will also remain free.
It added: “We are committed to fostering a safe and responsible developer ecosystem around Reddit — developers and third-party apps that make Reddit better, and do so in sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships. Do it while also keeping our users and data safe.”
The company cut 90 jobs, about 5% of its workforce, to cut costs.