Reddit blackout: are subreddits still private - API changes explained as Apollo app announces shutdown
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Some of the biggest Reddit pages went dark on Monday (13 June) in protest against new changes coming to the platform, which would result in some of the most popular third party apps for the site getting shut down.
Prior to the blackout, some of the communities intending to go private said that they would be returning to normal after 48 hours, however thousands of subreddits have continued to remain private. Other subreddits have also said that they won't be coming back until Reddit withdraws plans for its upcoming changes.
This is everything you need to know.
Why have Reddit pages gone private?
Some of the biggest subreddit communities have gone private in protest against the API changes. Going private means that the subreddit is no longer accessible to the public any more, with those already following the page allowed to access the subreddit.
The protests come amid backlash to the announcement from Reddit that it plans to start charging developers to access its application programming interface (API).
Up until now, Reddit’s API was free to be accessed by all, however the new changes are set to be introduced from 19 June.
What is API - and what changes are coming?
Reddit’s API is what allows third party apps to access Reddit, allowing developers to run alternative apps for smartphones for users who don’t like to use the official Reddit app. There are a variety of reasons why someone might choose to use a third party app instead of the Reddit app, including extra customisation and better accessibility features for things like screen readers for blind users.
While the Reddit website was launched in 2005, it didn’t actually release its own app until 2016, meaning many users had been forced to rely on third party apps to access the platform.
The API allows third party apps to communicate with the regular Reddit app, with the interface sending data back and forth between the two platforms without users having to access the app itself.
Using a third party app essentially means that the app requests permission from Reddit’s API to view posts, read and write comments, visit profiles and so on. Until now, Reddit had maintained a free API, however in a slew of changes announced in April, it was revealed that the platform would begin charging for API access, meaning developers of third party apps would have to pay for these requests.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman defended the move in an AMA (ask me anything) and explained the pricing in the post, writing: “Effective July 1, 2023, the rate for apps that require higher usage limits is $0.24 per 1K API calls (less than $1.00 per user / month for a typical Reddit third-party app).”
The more popular an app is, the more requests the app needs to make, meaning it will cost the developers more money to run.
Regarding Reddit’s price of $0.24 per 1,000 API calls, Christian Selig, developer of third party app Apollo, said: “The price they gave was $0.24 for 1,000 API calls. I quickly inputted this in my app, and saw that it was not far off Twitter's outstandingly high API prices, at $12,000, and with my current usage would cost almost $2 million dollars per month, or over $20 million per year.
“That is not an exaggeration, that is just multiplying the 7 billion requests Apollo made last month by the price per request.”
Which third party apps are shutting down?
As a result of the new API changes, a number of popular third party apps have announced that they will be closing down, including the aforementioned Apollo.
In a post on the Apollo subreddit, Selig wrote: “Apollo will close down on June 30th. Reddit’s recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue. Thank you so, so much for all the support over the years.”
Rif is Fun also announced that it would “shut down on June 30, 2023, in response to Reddit’s API changes”.
Other apps that have confirmed that they will be shutting down include Sync, Pager and ReddPlanet.
What has Steve Huffman said?
In an internal memo sent to Reddit staff on Monday afternoon, CEO Steve Huffman downplayed the protest efforts and instructed employees to block out the "noise".
The memo, per The Verge which obtained a copy of the note, said: "Hi Snoos,
"Starting last night, about a thousand subreddits have gone private. We do anticipate many of them will come back by Wednesday, as many have said as much. While we knew this was coming, it is a challenge nevertheless and we have our work cut out for us. A number of Snoos have been working around the clock, adapting to infrastructure strains, engaging with communities, and responding to the myriad of issues related to this blackout. Thank you, team.
"We have not seen any significant revenue impact so far and we will continue to monitor.
"There’s a lot of noise with this one. Among the noisiest we’ve seen. Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well. The most important things we can do right now are stay focused, adapt to challenges, and keep moving forward. We absolutely must ship what we said we would. The only long term solution is improving our product, and in the short term we have a few upcoming critical mod tool launches we need to nail.
"While the two biggest third-party apps, Apollo and RIF, along with a couple others, have said they plan to shut down at the end of the month, we are still in conversation with some of the others. And as I mentioned in my post last week, we will exempt accessibility-focused apps and so far have agreements with RedReader and Dystopia.
"I am sorry to say this, but please be mindful of wearing Reddit gear in public. Some folks are really upset, and we don’t want you to be the object of their frustrations.
"Again, we’ll get through it. Thank you to all of you for helping us do so."