Reddit’s road to profitability has hit a huge obstacle, as several thousand subreddits have made their communities inaccessible to non-subscribers as a form of protest against the company’s planned API changes.
The current number of subreddits “going dark” is currently around 7,230 and rising, according to a Twitch stream documenting the protest. Most of the communities have committed to a 48-hour blackout, starting June 12, but a few have said they’ll continue the protest “indefinitely,” per Engadget. The protesting communities included popular subreddits including r/Music, r/funny, r/aww and r/todayilearned.
So, why the backlash? It started when Reddit announced a number of changes to its API policy, including raised prices for third-party apps that would make their continued use untenable. The new rules would apparently cost apps like Apollo up to $20 million per year.
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“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” wrote Reddit CEO Steve Huffman recently on r/reddit, who has noted that a lot of AI training by Google and OpenAI has been done through the site (“We don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free,” Huffman told The New York Times.)
But most Reddit users and moderators (who work for free) aren’t thrilled with these changes. Besides losing third-party apps that are far superior to Reddit’s own, many people are frustrated with losing moderation and accessibility features that are better or only available on third-party apps.
Meanwhile, an AMA on Reddit last Friday with Huffman, where he outlined the changes, did not go well, as the CEO’s comments were downvoted; many posts, such as this one from user Meepster23, pretty much sum up the vitriol aimed at the company’s executives right now. “Reddit failed to communicate every step of the way with this API update,” they wrote. “From a complete lack of a vision, full picture, or details around most of the API changes at initial announcement, to sudden cut off of a critical mod tool, to late pricing releases with straight up lies in the details.”
So, what’s the end result here? Reddit, for now, isn’t backing down and a lot of third-party apps are going to go under. And Huffman, as unpopular as he is, seems determined to anger users of the site in the name of profits. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” he wrote during the AMA, claiming that “unlike some of the 3P apps, we are not profitable.” (Turns out social media companies aren’t cash cows.) Naturally, and in true, glorious Reddit fashion, his reply received 2,600+ downvotes.
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