Reddit Blackout Planned In Protest Of API Fee Change, What You Need To Know
You remember a couple of months ago when Twitter cut off free API access and all those cool Twitter services that you liked immediately died off? The wacky gimmick bots and third-party trend analysis services just vanished overnight. Well, it looks like Reddit is in love with the results of that change, because it's doing the same thing.
Yes, just like any major website, Reddit has an API, or "application programming interface." Applications can use the Reddit API to interact with the site in a more direct way than pretending to be a user. This is how all the third-party mobile apps for Reddit work, including Apollo, Reddit is Fun, narwhal, BaconReader, and RedReader—just to name a few.
Well, if you use one of those apps, you'd better start lining up an alternative, because Reddit is about to start charging hilarious fees for API accesses: $12,000 for each batch of 50 million requests. That might sound like a lot of requests, but consider that every single comment you load on Reddit is multiple requests, and it takes a few more if you want to interact with said comment, like upvoting it or replying to it.
Multiply that by a few thousand users and it's not hard to rack up a six-digit bill in a month. The developer of Apollo, the most popular Reddit app for iPhones, says that the new charges would cost him $20 million USD per year. Reddit says that the charges are "on par" with what they make off of the rest of the userbase, but the Apollo developer estimates that it's more than 20 times what Reddit makes off of a typical site or app user.
A huge portion of Reddit users, possibly even a majority, access the site through third-party apps. This is because old Reddit is a pain to use on mobile, new Reddit is an abomination before God, and the official app is laden with advertisements and a horrible user interface. Apps like the simple and convenient RedReader or the feature-filled Apollo give people a way to use the site without these frustrations.
Redditors are calling it the APIcalypse, and that's why significant portions of the site are going dark on June 12th. It's a protest in an attempt to send Reddit a message: stop being greedy. You see, the whole point of this API change is because companies like OpenAI and Google have used Reddit to train artificial intelligence large language models, and Reddit didn't get paid for that, which made their beancounters very upset.
As one of the commenters on the announcement says, "it's not hard to not break a website." Indeed, Reddit could leave well enough alone and continue making money hand over fist. The site had over $450 million in revenue last year, and admittedly, that seems low in the face of its 1.1 billion users, but discussion forums have never exactly been a huge source of profit for anyone.
The list of subreddits going dark (that is, going Private, and disallowing new posts), is extremely long—2,447 subreddits—and includes some of the most popular "default" subs on the site, including /r/aww, /r/gaming, /r/music, /r/pics, and /r/todayilearned. The total subscription count of participating subs is over one billion users, and some of these subs won't be coming back if Reddit doesn't walk back the API pricing change.
Hopefully, Reddit gets the message. It would be a shame if the most popular English-language discussion forum in the world fell apart because its ownership simply got too greedy. There certainly are Reddit alternatives out there, but it sure is nice to have one central site consolidating everything.