In an unprecedented move, the online platform Reddit, often referred to as the “front page of the internet”, has experienced a blackout of massive proportions. Over two days, from June 12th to June 14th, approximately 7,000 Reddit communities, also known as subreddits, have voluntarily gone dark, and continuing to do so, effectively becoming invisible and inaccessible to non-approved members. This blackout was orchestrated by subreddit moderators in protest against Reddit’s upcoming changes to its API pricing, which could potentially kill off many beloved third-party applications.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, are the lifeblood of the modern internet. Essentially, they are protocols that enable different applications to communicate and share data. Reddit, like other tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, has its own public API that developers can use to build new features and functionality. Until recently, Reddit offered free access to its API. However, on April 18th, the company announced that it was going to start charging developers for access to its API from July 1, 2023, leading to a stonking backlash from its community.
This new API pricing change would directly impact a large community of third-party application developers who build apps that offer additional features and customizations not found on the official Reddit app or website. Under the new terms, applications with fewer than 100 queries per minute will remain free, but those with higher API requests will be charged. To provide some context, one of the most popular third-party apps, Apollo, would be looking at a cost of approximately $20 million per year to continue operating under the new pricing model.
Reddit’s decision to implement this change comes in the wake of similar moves by other social media platforms, such as Twitter, which recently suspended all third-party apps. Reddit’s CEO and co-founder, Steve Huffman, defended this change by stating that the platform needs to be a self-sustaining business and can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use. Huffman confirmed that non-commercial, accessibility-focused apps and tools will continue to have free access.
This explanation, however, did not quell the uproar among users and developers. Many large and popular subreddits, some with tens of millions of subscribers, decided to go dark in a stonking display of dissent. Among the largest communities participating in the protest were r/funny, r/gaming, r/aww, and r/todayilearned, to name a few.
The scale and intensity of the protest highlights the pivotal role that third-party apps play in the Reddit ecosystem and the strong sense of community among Reddit users. It remains to be seen whether this collective action will bring about a change in Reddit’s decision. However, one thing is certain: The Great Reddit Blackout of 2023 is a clear message from the user community that they value their third-party apps and are willing to fight for them.
- “Why are thousands of Reddit pages going dark for 48 hours?” Al Jazeera. Retrieved on 12 June 2023.
- “Reddit goes dark: Thousands of subreddits switch to private in protest against platform’s API changes” The Guardian. Retrieved on 12 June 2023.
- “Reddit blackout: Over 7,000 communities go private over platform’s API pricing changes” BBC News. Retrieved on 12 June 2023.