Thousands of Reddit communities are currently inaccessible or highly restricted in protest of recently revealed price hikes for third-party developers. Beginning on June 12, moderators overseeing some of the website’s most popular subreddits including r/aww, r/music, and r/science set their community pages to private through June 14. Some plan to remain inactive until Reddit changes its pricing plans.
The blackout stems from news first revealed via a post by Christian Selig, developer of the extremely popular iOS-only Reddit app, Apollo. Last Wednesday, Selig explained that Reddit recently informed him of its new fee system rates scheduled to go into effect on July 1. This change would ostensibly raise his operating costs from $0 to $20 million per year in order to continue accessing its application programming interface (API). A website’s API enables other third-party apps and academic researchers to access its data, such as comments and posts. Apollo, for example, is what over 900,000 daily active users rely on to easily access Reddit, whose website is notoriously cumbersome outside of its desktop format.
“It goes without saying that I don’t have that kind of money or would even know how to charge it to a credit card,” wrote Selig at the time, who detailed Reddit reportedly plans to charge $12,000 for every 50 million attempts at accessing company data. As of writing, Selig plans to cease operations for Apollo at the end of the month.
As Android Authority notes, third-party apps’ access to site APIs have historically been free-to-use, thus enabling robust developer communities, as well as user options. Some observers note that part of Reddit’s change-of-tune likely stems from the explosive popularity of artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT. AI large language models are frequently trained on vast data troves scraped for free from internet sources such as Reddit, something Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman recently expressed frustration with in an interview with The New York Times.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, a spokesperson for Reddit wrote “The vast majority of API users will not have to pay for access; not all third-party apps usage requires paid access,” adding that, “The Reddit Data API is free to use within the published rate limits so long as apps are not monetized.”
According to the protest’s announcement, communities are also raising awareness for the lack of accessibility offered to Reddit’s blind users. “The official app is not accessible for blind people, these are not new issues and blind and visually impaired users have relied on third-party apps for years,” reads a portion of the post. “Why were disabled communities not contacted to gauge the impact of these API changes?”
Reddit’s controversial decision mirrors a similar move from Twitter, which announced similarly criticized API fee plans under the direction of former CEO Elon Musk. A growing (albeit incomplete) list of the subreddits participating in the protest can be found here.