Reddit protest: Thousands of pages are going dark for 48 hours

The protest is against upcoming API changes that will kill off third-party apps.
Ameya Paleja
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Reddit is taking Twitter's route to monetization

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Thousands of pages on Reddit, including some with over 30 million subscribers each, plan to go dark for 48 hours starting today. At the time of writing, some of the pages have already gone dark, while others have decided to extend the period they will remain dark, The Guardian reported.

With an estimated 430 million monthly active users, Reddit is one of the top 20 popular websites on the internet. Users typically subscribe to pages based on topics on the website, which are moderated by long-time users, much like a forum.

Over the years, these pages, also called subreddits, have taken the form of large communities on the internet and are now fighting back against the planned changes to the website.

What changes is Reddit bringing?

Starting 1 July, Reddit plans to bring in changes to its application programming interface (API). Readers might remember API from Elon Musk's time as CEO at Twitter, where he decided to charge programmers wanting to use them.

Reddit's planned changes are also a step in the same direction with the aim of monetizing their usage. Conventionally, tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have kept their APIs free, but the rise of companies building AI models, such as OpenAI, manage to crawl these networks for free.

In an interview with The New York Times in April, Reddit co-founder and current CEO Steve Huffman said, "Crawling Reddit, generating value and not returning any of that value to our users is something we have a problem with." By charging users for requests over API, Reddit, too, wants to improve its bottom line.

Small programmers, collateral damage

As per Reditt's planned changes, applications that send less than 100 queries per minute will remain free. These account for 90 percent of the current applications that crawl Reddit. Those with a higher number of requests will have to pay 24 cents for every 1,000 requests.

Reddit's demand may not sound like a lot, but it is leading to the closure of certain third party-apps like Apollo, which offers a better interface to access Reddit than its native app does.

According to Christian Selig, the creator of Apollo, his app sends seven billion monthly requests to Reddit, and it would cost him $20 million a year to operate the service. To keep themselves running, the apps would need to charge users $5 a month, Selig estimates, but he has decided to shut his service down on June 30th instead.

Moderators of Reddit communities questioned the CEO in a r/AskMeAnything session on Friday but received no positive news in response. Huffman is determined to implement the changes ahead of taking the company public later this year.

As a mark of protest, moderators have therefore decided to take the subreddits private and prevent a handful from accessing them. This includes subreddits about music, videos, gaming, gadgets, and sports, which have millions of subscribers. In the wake of Friday's AMA, some even plan to extend their protest beyond the planned 48 hours.

Subreddits going dark can be tracked on the website Reddark.

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