Reddit has had a tumultuous month after announcing changes to its data API. Over the past month, Reddit’s CEO has given interviews defending the company’s decision, the social network has fallen out with developers and moderators, and the platform has seen a slew of subreddits go black and later protest in different ways.
As the API changes and speed caps went into effect on July 1, Reddit is preparing for a new chapter with fewer third-party apps, more attention to its own apps, and an unsatisfied community. In this story, we’ll take a look at what happened in the past month and what the future looks like.
Reddit’s controversial June
In early June, Christian Selig, the developer of a popular Reddit client called Apollo, said he had a phone call with Reddit management. The price of the API would cost him nearly $20 million a year to run his app. This post and the company’s changes were followed by many third-party Reddit app developers sharing similar concerns about their future.
In response, many subreddits went black from June 12-14 to protest these changes. Meanwhile, Selig said he would shut down Apollo by the end of the month. Other apps like Reddit is fun and in sync for Reddit it also announced closures. Company CEO Steve Huffman held a dramatic AMA on the site and defended his decision by saying Reddit will “continue to be profit-driven until the profits come,” as he attacked Selig.
Huffman gave a series of interviews as thousands of subreddits went dark. He called the protesting moderators the “landed gentry” and talked about redefining the moderator rules so that the community could vote on them if needed. Huffman also complained that while third-party developers made money, Reddit faced an infrastructure cost of $10 million a year.
Subsequently, Selig and other developers hit Backwards to debunk Reddit’s claim about trying to work with developers. Selig said inside His place who in one of his calls with the company earlier this year, asked about plans for changes in the APIs and the company said there won’t be any.
While the June 12-14 protest did have an effect on site traffic and even Google search, the company maintained the position that there was no effect on revenue. As a result, some subreddits have extended the blackout, some even asking their community members to decide the future course of their community. As Reddit admins threatened moderators to reopen subreddits, these communities adapted alternative forms of protest, such as posting photos of John Oliver, setting blackout days, and changing the community focus.
The company also pushed back on subreddits that started branding themselves as NSFW. They removed moderators for communities like r/interstingasfuck, r/midlyinteresting and er/TIHI (Thanks I hate it). Notably, the company doesn’t allow ads on NSFW captions, and a large number of communities changing their status could impact ad revenue.
AS The limit reported last month, r/TranscribersOfReddit, a volunteer subreddit that provided transcription for the media, has decided to shut down. Additionally, the report found that moderators were relying on third-party apps for accessibility tools, which aren’t available in the Reddit app.
The company has allowed apps like RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna to be exempt from API changes due to accessibility features. However, moderators they pointed out that these apps may lack proper moderator tools.
What’s happening now
When some communities decided to stay private, the admins of Reddit sent messages to moderators asking them to open up within 48 hours. As a result, communities like r/Photography and r/homeimprovement have opened up, but with relaxed or restricted rules. r/pics is now NSFW despite the company saying that incorrectly tagging a community with that label is against platform rules. r/videos publishes text descriptions of videos. So the protest is still going on somehow.
Apps like Apollo, Sync for Reddit, BaconReader and Boost for Reddit have been shut down. Meanwhile, some app developers like Relay, Now for Reddit AND Narwhal they are making their apps free as they explore a subscription model.
Moderators are still finding ways to protest the changes. The r/IAMA moderators said they will no longer coordinate celebrity interviews, as reported by The limit.
Over the weekend, Reddit announced it’s carrying accessibility improvements to features like moderation tools. However, the moderators r/Blind released over the weekend that there are bugs in the official Reddit app that made it impossible to lead the community. The subreddit also requested that the social network appoint a “Chief Accessibility Officer” to make the platform more inclusive and easier to use.
In its blog post titled “Key Facts for Understanding Reddit’s Recent API Updates,” the company said it conducted an external accessibility audit, but didn’t share any further details about it. The social media platform said it has exempted apps like RedReader, Luna and Dystopia from API charges. This way, apps that focus on accessibility will remain free. But the company hasn’t shared the criteria for an app to qualify for the exemption.
As for the company, it is now focused on achieving profitability as rumors of an IPO they are escalating. In an interview with The limitHuffman said an IPO is “something we’d like to do someday” but there were “a few things I’d like to do with Reddit before we got there.”
Reddit’s recent spate of actions hasn’t completely wiped out the third-party ecosystem, but the company has made it difficult for developers to create a sustainable model without incurring significant costs. These changes have also created unpleasant experiences for communities and prompted them to use tools they may not have wanted.
The company appears to be adamant about its decisions, and new changes to the API pricing structure seem unlikely.