Why Have Thousands Of Reddit Communities Gone Dark To Protest The App?

What Happened?

Thousands of Reddit pages have decided to “go dark” between 12th & 14th June in a protest against the platform’s new API policy changes.

In these 48 hours, some of the most popular subreddits have become private by the moderators & unable to be found by users. Certain communities have even stated that they will remain offline until the planned changes are revised or completely withdrawn.

There are currently about 7259 subreddits down, some of which have over 20 million users. The biggest one currently off is r/funny, which boasts 49 million active users.

Message Posted Before Community Blackout

The Policy Change

An API (application programming interface) is a technical middleman that allows applications to communicate with each other. Most companies today make use of APIs on their day-to-day.

Until 1st July 2023, Reddit is allowing free access to its API. That means that users could use Reddit through 3rd party apps like Apollo, which has almost a million daily active users.

3rd-party apps like Apollo are important for users as they provide accessibility that the base programme may not have. They can be more customisable, user-friendly & usable.

A Deeper Problem

One of the major issues with the paid API policy is that Reddit has set a flat rate for usage. That means that without a distinction of price for developers, many small scale programmers & apps will no longer be able to make use of it.

The rate is currently set at 12,000 dollars per 50,000 million API requests. Those requests are responsible for getting all data from the base programme & server.

For reference, Apollo sends about 7 billion requests per month. That means that operating costs would be about 20 million dollars per year.

The Reddit Team

Besides 3rd-party applications, moderation tools are also in danger. Reddit uses moderators on a voluntary basis, with individual users using their free time to uphold & enforce community rules.

Due to a lack of proper support & tools from Reddit itself, moderators tend to turn towards 3rd-party apps for their work.

This will now also be greatly affected by the changes, as many moderators are taking a stand against the new policy. Some 30,000 mods are running subreddits & without them, the company will struggle to run July onwards.

So Why The Change?

Currently, Reddit doesn't provide a way for 3rd-party apps to serve ads displayed on its own website. Its Terms of Service also prohibits them from serving other ads independently.

Many users & developers have voiced that allowing ads & charging a more realistic rate for the API usage would be a good solution for the situation.

However, Reddit’s decision is based on maximising their ability to track users in their app. So instead of allowing developers to serve ads through their API, they’re opting to charge a set price for their API usage.  

News Sources: Al Jazeera, Ars Technica, The Independent, Reuters, National World.

What Do You Think About Reddit’s Policy Changes?

Share this article