The backlash over Reddit’s pricey API policies doesn’t appear to be subsiding anytime soon. In recent days, thousands of subreddits with over two billion cumulative members announced a 48-hour period of going dark (or private) as a protest. Meanwhile, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman appeared in an AMA (ask me anything) session to clear the air, but instead of easing the concerns, his interaction with community members only inflamed the backlash.
Now, more than 300 subreddits have announced plans for an indefinite strike. The protesting communities include some of the most popular Reddit corners like r/music, r/aww, and r/videos, each commanding over 20 million community members. In a Reddit post, the moderators leading the protest say that while “Reddit has budged microscopically,” their key issues are yet to be addressed.
Notably, Reddit also had a service outage coinciding with the massive community blackout. Looking ahead, the participating subreddits are “prepared to remain private or otherwise inaccessible indefinitely” until the platform engages with them and comes up with a solution. Additionally, subreddits providing critical support and information, such as those helping with health and wellness issues, will engage in a milder form of protest that involves participation only one day per week.
The expanded blackout was spurred by a leaked memo
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At the heart of the platform-wide ruckus are Reddit APIs, the code allowing third-party tools and apps to stay functional by connecting with Reddit servers. In April, Reddit announced that its APIs will no longer be free for commercial products, and the only scenarios where it won’t charge a fee for API calls is if they are used for improving the platform in one way or another without any private financial incentive. As a result, popular third-party apps like Apollo are shutting down this month, because based on user metrics, the annual API fee will run into millions of dollars.
It certainly doesn’t help that Reddit’s own mobile app is terrible, while a majority of good bots and moderation tools have been built atop hundreds of hours’ worth of non-paid work by ardent Reddit users. But CEO Huffman apparently is in no mood to budge, and his alleged internal reaction to the matter appears to be even more inflammatory.
In an alleged internal memo leaked by The Verge, Huffman reportedly told employees that “like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well.” He also reportedly said that the blackouts had, at the time of writing, not had much of an impact on Reddit’s revenue. In the hours that followed, the article was heavily cited among Reddit moderators and users who called for the blackout to become indefinite. So far, Huffman hasn’t made any public comments following his controversial AMA, but he’ll no doubt have a hard time with any future attempts at community negotiations.