Farukh Kitchlew | Nov 29, 2023 | 0
Reddit Faces Backlash and Protests Following API Changes
In a tumultuous month for Reddit, the popular social network faces backlash from its community and has been controversial after announcing changes to its data API. The repercussions of these changes have resulted in fights with developers and moderators, the shutdown of popular third-party apps, and widespread protests across numerous subreddits.
The controversy began when Christian Selig, the developer of the popular Reddit client Apollo, revealed that the new API pricing would cost him nearly $20 million annually to run his app. This revelation sparked concerns among other third-party app developers about their future on the platform.
In response to the API changes, many subreddits organized a protest and went dark from June 12 to 14. This protest aimed to raise awareness about the detrimental impact of the changes. Notable third-party apps such as Reddit is Fun and Sync for Reddit also announced their closures. Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, defended the company’s decision in a dramatic AMA and criticized Selig, referring to protesting moderators as the “landed gentry.”
The protests had a noticeable effect on site traffic and Google search results. However, Reddit maintained that there was no impact on revenue. Consequently, some subreddits extended their blackout, seeking input from community members to determine the future direction of their communities. In response, Reddit admins threatened to reopen subreddits. This prompted alternative forms of protest, such as posting John Oliver’s pictures and organizing blackout days.
Additionally, Reddit removed moderators from communities that marked themselves as NSFW (Not Safe for Work), as this could potentially affect advertising revenue. The company also faced criticism for lacking accessibility tools in third-party apps, leading to the shutdown of the volunteer subreddit r/TranscribersOfReddit.
Currently, Reddit is still witnessing ongoing protests and modifications within various communities. Some subreddits have reopened with relaxed rules, while others have marked themselves as NSFW. Some app developers have offered their services for free as they explore a subscription model, while others have shut down completely.
Moderators continue to find ways to express their discontent, with r/IAMA announcing that they will no longer coordinate celebrity interviews. Reddit has acknowledged the need for improved accessibility and plans to enhance moderation tools. However, bugs in the official Reddit app have hindered the r/Blind community. This has prompted demands for appointing a “Chief Accessibility Officer” to improve inclusivity.
To address concerns, Reddit conducted an external audit on accessibility. The company exempted apps like RedReader, Luna, and Dystopia from API charges. This allows accessibility-focused apps to remain free. However, the specific criteria for exemption qualification have not been disclosed.
Despite the protests and backlash, Reddit appears determined to stick with its decisions. Speculation regarding an IPO is growing, with CEO Steve Huffman expressing interest in pursuing this path after implementing further changes. While some communities have migrated to alternative platforms like Kbin and Lemmy, these new platforms still lack the user base of Reddit’s larger subreddits.
Reddit’s recent actions have strained its relationship with developers, moderators, and the community. Reddit’s push for profitability amid API pricing changes challenges developers and community adjustment.