Reddit CEO Stands Firm on Controversial API Pricing Amid Developer Dispute

In a recent Ask Me Anything (AMA) session hosted by Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, the company’s decision to revise its API pricing and the resulting clash with third-party app developers took center stage. Despite facing significant community backlash, Huffman reiterated that Reddit had no plans to reconsider its forthcoming API changes. Moreover, he doubled down on accusations against Christian Selig, the developer behind the popular third-party app Apollo, citing concerns over Selig’s behavior and communications.

The controversy erupted when developers like Selig pointed out that the new API pricing would render their apps economically unviable. Selig estimated that the revised terms would cost him $20 million annually, a figure far beyond the app’s revenue-generating capabilities. Consequently, Selig announced that Apollo would cease operations on June 30, just before the implementation of the new pricing structure. Other third-party apps, including Sync, RIF, and Reddplanet, also announced their closure due to the API changes.

A particular bone of contention arose when Selig playfully suggested that if Apollo was costing Reddit $20 million per year, the company should consider buying him out. However, this remark was misconstrued as a threat by a Reddit representative on a call with Selig. Selig recorded the call to clarify the nature of the conversation, which was legal in his home country of Canada. Despite the misunderstanding being resolved and an apology given, Huffman referred to the incident as Selig “threatening” Reddit.

During the AMA, when asked about his attempt to discredit Apollo by claiming Selig had threatened and blackmailed him, Huffman responded candidly, stating that Selig’s “joke” was not the main concern. He cited Selig’s inconsistent behavior and communications, including saying different things to Reddit internally versus externally and leaking a private phone call, as reasons why Reddit couldn’t envision a continued working relationship with the developer.

The timing of Reddit’s API policy change, which effectively puts Apollo out of business, is particularly unfortunate as the app had recently gained attention at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference for its iOS-first and user-friendly design.

Despite facing criticism and site-wide protests, Huffman demonstrated little concern over the fallout from the decisions. In response to questions about the API changes, he maintained that Reddit would continue to prioritize profitability, unlike some third-party apps that are not profitable. While Huffman acknowledged that certain apps had chosen to close due to the pricing, he stated that Reddit was open to engaging with developers who were willing to work within the new framework.

However, comments from other developers contradicted Huffman’s claims, with one stating that Reddit had ignored their attempts to discuss the changes. Another developer reported submitting a request for Enterprise API access multiple times without receiving any response.

The AMA also shed light on other aspects of Reddit’s plans, including limiting access to mature content via the Data API from July 5, 2023, as part of efforts to establish stricter regulations. Nonetheless, explicit content would still be permitted.

The AMA, along with an overview of the session, is available on r/Save3rdPartyApps, a subreddit that has garnered over 50,000 members since the API changes were announced, showcasing the community’s concerns and dissatisfaction with Reddit’s decisions.