Reddit blackout begins as forums protest charges for developers

Reddit wants to charge developers of third-party apps, such as Apollo and Sync – which have been built to help users navigate the sprawling site – for pulling in data such as user posts and reader comments. — Reuters

Millions of Reddit fans will find themselves locked out of their favourite pages in the coming days, as moderators take a stance against plans for the platform to charge third-party app developers for access to the site’s data.

The protest is expected to last at least 48 hours, although some groups have signaled they will stay dark for longer. Here’s everything we know right now:

Why can’t I access my favorite subreddit?

More than 3,000 subreddit groups – communities dedicated to particular interests on the platform – are “going dark” for at least two days from Monday to protest a decision to increase charges for third-party app developers. Some of the biggest subreddits, including r/apple, r/videos, r/sports and r/MildlyInteresting have already blocked public access to their pages. At issue is the cost of accessing Reddit Inc’s application programming interface, or API.

Attempting to access the r/apple page currently brings up a message that reads: “R/apple is a private community. We stand in solidarity with numerous people who need access to the API, including bot developers, people with accessibility needs (r/blind) and 3rd party app users (Apollo, Sync, etc).”

Will there be any way to access those subreddits during the dark period?

There are four types of communities on Reddit, according to the company – public, restricted, private and premium-only. When a subreddit is private, the only way to view it is if you have been granted direct access by a moderator, according to the site’s FAQs. With such a vast number of users in many of these forums, it’s unlikely that moderators will be granting access to large numbers of users during the blackout period.

What does Reddit want to charge for?

Reddit wants to charge developers of third-party apps, such as Apollo and Sync – which have been built to help users navigate the sprawling site – for pulling in data such as user posts and reader comments. The apps’ developers say the API charges are prohibitive. Apollo, for example, claims it would be forced to pay Reddit US$20mil (RM92.35mil) per year. A Reddit post on the r/ApolloApp group on Friday said the app would be forced to close down. Others have said the same.

What does Reddit Inc say?

A company spokesman said Reddit spends millions on hosting its content and “needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps”. Over the weekend, Reddit chief executive officer Steve Huffman broke his silence on the furore, with an “ask me anything” session hosted on the site. “Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidise commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” he wrote.

What are competitors doing?

Elon Musk’s Twitter set the tone for charging for previously-free API access in February, arguing along similar lines that it too seeks to be compensated for providing a service. Meta Platforms Inc has joined Twitter in also promoting a paid service tier for users, making verification and other basic functionality a premium component.

When are the changes being made?

Reddit plans to introduce its new pricing structure on July 1. A number of third-party apps, including Apollo and Sync, have said they will shut down on June 30 as a result.

What else is Reddit doing?

In addition to charging third parties for data, Reddit said it was eliminating about 90 full-time jobs and plans to reduce hiring to 100 new roles, from 300 previously. The company currently has about 2,000 full-time employees. The platform filed confidentially for an initial public offering in late 2021, but the action stalled. – Bloomberg

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