Why are so many Reddit communities going 'dark' for 48 hours?

More than 3,000 subreddits have issued blackouts starting Monday to protest changes on the social media platform

Popular subreddits such as r/videos and r/lifeprotips will be inaccessible to all but its members during the 48-hour protest. AFP
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Reddit has gone dark.

More than 3,000 subreddits have issued blackouts starting Monday to protest changes on the social media platform. The changes will include charging developers for its Application Programming Interface (API), meaning that several popular third-party apps used to navigate Reddit will be closed as a result.

Some of the site’s largest subreddits, including r/videos and r/lifeprotips, will be inaccessible to anyone but its members during the 48-hour protest.

Reddit’s API has been free since it was launched seven years ago. Developers building Reddit apps could request data from the company, providing endless ways to customise user interface and curate subreddits. The API essentially allows two apps to send and receive data without actually accessing each other.

One of the third-party apps affected by these changes include Apollo. Created by Christian Selig, a former intern at Apple, the app was a client specifically tailored for iOS and iPadOS. It launched in 2017 and has been a favourite among Reddit users within the Apple ecosystem.

On May 31, Selig stated that Apollo was now expected to pay $12,000 for every 50 million requests. Taking into consideration the 7 billion requests Apollo made to Reddit’s API in April alone, the company will have to pay some $20 million a year to continue its service.

“I’m deeply disappointed in this price,” Selig wrote in a Reddit post. “While Reddit has been communicative and civil throughout this process with half a dozen phone calls back and forth that I thought went really well, I don’t see how this pricing is anything based in reality or remotely reasonable. I hope 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.

“For Apollo, the average user uses 344 requests daily, or 10,600 monthly. With the proposed API pricing, the average user in Apollo would cost $2.50, which is 20x higher than a generous estimate of what each users brings Reddit in revenue,” he wrote. Apollo, he added, will likely not be able to survive these changes.

“I asked Reddit if they were flexible on this pricing or not, and they stated that it's their understanding that no, this will be the pricing.” Other Reddit third-party apps that could face similar costs include Rif and Relay.

Reddit’s decision to charge for its API echoes a similar decision Twitter took earlier this year, making developers pay a subscription plan for third-party apps. The move went beyond user experience and customisation but also affected accounts that use Twitter’s API to issue safety and transportation news.

Updated: June 12, 2023, 10:05 AM