Reddit users across its millions are experiencing significant disruption this week due to several communities on its self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” going dark in protest at planned changes.
Reddit recently implemented changes that involve charging third-party apps access to its API data, prompting Apollo developers to state that these charges could force their app to close down.
What is Reddit?
Reddit is a social networking website that allows its users to share and discuss information on a wide variety of topics. Reddit boasts over 91 million registered members, making it one of the most vibrant online communities available today. Reddit also hosts Ask Me Anything events (AMA), where famous figures respond directly to user queries live through Reddit.
Reddit has recently caused considerable uproar since its announcement of charging developers access to its API (Application Programming Interface). This decision led more than 8,000 subreddits (communities within Reddit) to go private or restrict access in response to Reddit’s policy changes; many of these subreddits boast millions of members each.
Reddit Blackout organizers have initiated an effort to put pressure on Reddit to alter its policies. They have called upon users to file complaints against and boycott Reddit, with API issues at the forefront of their demands list.
Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman has taken an interest in this issue through interviews. He argued that current conditions on Reddit were harming its ordinary users and has harshly criticized volunteer moderators. He likened them to the “landed gentry,” suggesting changes might be made so it becomes easier for users to vote off moderators’ positions.
The short-term effects of the blackout should be relatively minor, while its long-term ramifications remain unknown. Businesses that utilize Reddit to promote their products and services could see some degree of reduced engagement with Reddit as advertisers shift focus elsewhere – potentially prompting some advertisers to reconsider promoting themselves through Reddit altogether.
In the long term, the effects of Reddit’s blackout could spur more communities to form alternative forums in response, creating a fragmented social media ecosystem where marketers find it harder to target audiences. Thus, marketers should carefully consider its possible effects before continuing marketing activities on Reddit.
Why is the blackout happening?
Reddit is an enormously popular online community with millions of members worldwide, but recently, access has become nearly impossible due to an unprecedented protest over changes to Reddit’s data policies. A number of Reddit forums have gone dark as part of a mass boycott against changes.
On July 1, Reddit will institute a change to its fee structures that will charge third-party apps access to its data, potentially crippling many popular third-party Reddit applications like Joey and Apollo that allow users to browse with custom interfaces on phones. Unfortunately, developers were given only 30 days’ notice prior to these fee adjustments taking effect, so their apps cannot be optimized for these changes in advance.
Not only will these changes eliminate third-party apps, but they may also make it harder for content moderators to enforce rules and identify posts that violate them – potentially having an irreparable effect on the quality of forum content, which could make finding valuable information or even avoiding child sexual abuse material more challenging.
Many of the subreddits going dark have pledged to remain private indefinitely as a form of protest against new changes to Reddit. This includes some of its most renowned communities, such as r/aww, r/videos, and r/music, which all boast millions of subscribers each.
Reddit forums across the board have joined together in this protest, which is expected to last at least 48 hours. The subreddit r/Save3rdPartyApps, which brought attention to this issue, has pledged to keep its threads and comments hidden until the protest ends.
Reddit users have also taken steps to defend themselves by employing various other tactics. For instance, both r/pics and r/gifs communities have moved toward using stricter formats that only feature images or videos; though these restrictions haven’t proven successful at blocking content, they do help highlight its existence. Several communities have also been marked “Not safe for work,” automatically disqualifying them as potential advertising platforms.
What are the subreddits going dark?
Reddit’s plan to charge third-party apps for API access has caused numerous subreddits to go dark in response to it, potentially shutting down popular third-party applications like Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync, as well as smaller subreddits that use them. As a protest measure against this change, thousands of subreddits are going dark for at least two days – including major subreddits with millions of subscribers like r/gaming and r/todayilearned and fandom-specific communities such as r/gaming
Sites tracking the number of subreddits going dark report that nearly 6,500 have gone offline since Monday morning, including some of the most popular subreddits such as r/aww, r/music, videos, and futurology subreddits, as well as gaming, science, art, and other related subreddits.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman responded to community anger by assuring them, “Like all blowups on Reddit, this one too will pass.” It appears Reddit traffic has decreased during its blackout, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that these popular forums are no longer accessible to users.
Protesters plan to keep their pages private indefinitely in response to changes to API pricing changes, with several communities such as r/dankmemes and r/music planning on keeping their pages closed as long as necessary to demonstrate against it. As these communities cannot afford the new costs, they face closure unless an alternative solution can be found quickly.
Other communities are still making decisions on their course of action; some may choose to continue the blackout, while others advocate for a compromise solution that would enable them to use third-party apps. Meanwhile, steps have been taken by members of this community to raise awareness about what subreddits are fighting for and understand why thousands of them have come out against Reddit’s top leadership – stay tuned for further updates as the situation develops!
What is the Reddit API?
Reddit API stands for Reddit Application Programming Interface and serves as a set of programming tools that allow outside developers to build programs that interact with Reddit. Like most social media websites, this API enables third-party apps and sites to access information contained on Reddit networks. Each time one of these third-party apps interacts with Reddit, it makes an API call requesting data. One API call equals one server request, so if millions of users access an app/website each day, then more API calls will be made than expected!
Problematically, API calls now cost $0.24 each – this can quickly add up for developers creating apps that interact with Reddit. Apollo was one such app that allowed users to read posts directly within Reddit without leaving its site – it announced its closure due to rising costs.
Some of the most popular subreddits on Reddit have chosen to go dark as a protest against Reddit’s new policy, such as r/pics, with over 30 million users, and r/aww, which features memes. Others have made themselves private or read-only so as to prevent accessing content within their communities.
Reddit held an Ask Me Anything session this week to address some of the criticism around its new API policies, specifically charging for API access. An executive confirmed that their plans remain unchanged but noted that non-commercial tools designed to assist moderators would not incur fees, and reiterated Reddit’s intention to partner with third-party developers offering accessibility options such as the RedReader app for visually impaired users.
Controversy may still roil Reddit, however. On July 5, the company plans to enforce new API rules, and it does not appear that thousands of Redditors who have been protesting will accept this change. According to company statements, independent developers who make Reddit better will continue working with Reddit, but many popular communities on Reddit have decided to remain dark indefinitely, pending the resolution of their disagreement.