Reddit Faces Backlash as API Pricing Dispute Escalates; Reddit Denounces Value of Third Party Apps

In a growing controversy, several subreddits have initiated blackouts to protest against Reddit’s plans to impose exorbitant charges for its API usage. However, Reddit has now informed moderators of these subreddits that it will replace resistant moderation teams to ensure that these spaces remain “open and accessible to users.”

In a comment shared by r/Apple moderator @aaronp613, Reddit referred to its Moderator Code of Conduct and emphasized its responsibility to maintain communities that are relied upon by thousands or even millions of users. Reddit stated that moderators who do not agree to reopen subreddits that have gone private will be removed from their positions.

The blackouts, which took place between Monday and Wednesday of this week, involved the majority of popular subreddits on the platform. The goal was to prompt Reddit to revise its API pricing structure to be more equitable for developers and provide them with additional time to adapt to the API changes. However, Reddit chose not to make adjustments and instead waited for the protests to subside.

Consequently, some subreddits, such as r/Apple, have decided to continue the blackout indefinitely, effectively denying millions of Reddit users access to these communities. It appears that Reddit intends to forcefully end further blackouts by removing entire moderation teams that participate in the protests.

On Monday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman acknowledged that the blackouts had not caused any significant revenue impact thus far and dismissed them as temporary noise. In a recent interview with The Verge, Huffman further asserted that Reddit’s API was never intended to support third-party apps, which he claimed do not add much value to the site. According to Huffman, Reddit designed its API primarily for tools, bots, and enhancements within Reddit itself.

Huffman confirmed that the blackouts had not influenced Reddit’s API pricing plan, stating that the decision was final and would not be reversed. Interestingly, he also mentioned that Reddit would not compel communities to reopen, contradicting the messaging conveyed to moderators.

In response to the ongoing backlash, Reddit published a blog post presenting what it calls “key facts” about the API updates. The post emphasizes Reddit’s respect for dissent, debate, and discussions as integral parts of its platform, as long as moderators adhere to the Moderator Code of Conduct. However, the Moderator Code of Conduct is precisely what Reddit is citing when informing moderators about the potential removal of closed community moderation teams.

Moderators and Reddit users are increasingly dissatisfied with Reddit’s decision to impose exorbitant API charges and the short 30-day timeline provided for third-party developers to adapt to the new fees.

One notable developer affected by these changes is Christian Selig, the creator of the Apollo app. Selig estimated that adopting the new API pricing structure would cost him $20 million annually, prompting his decision to shut down the app on June 30, just one day before Reddit’s charges take effect. Consequently, as of July 1, there will be few, if any, third-party apps available for viewing Reddit content, effectively pushing users toward the Reddit website or official app.