Thousands of subreddits go dark protesting Reddit’s API changes

Between June 12 and June 14, a vast number of Reddit communities, known as subreddits, are going dark in protest of the planned API changes that could potentially put an end to many third-party applications. Reddit, often referred to as the “front page of the internet,” is one of the top 20 most popular websites with approximately 430 million monthly active users.

During the 48-hour period, moderators of thousands of subreddits will switch their communities to private mode, making the pages inaccessible for anyone but approved members. Some subreddits have stated that they will remain offline until the planned changes are amended or cancelled.

APIs (application programming interfaces) are the backbone of the modern web, allowing applications to communicate and granting developers access to data for building new features and functionality. Reddit, like other tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, has a public API that programmers can use after agreeing to certain terms and conditions. Reddit has provided free access to its API until now, but announced on April 18 that it will begin charging developers for API access from July 1, 2023.

Reddit’s decision follows Twitter’s announcement to suspend all third-party apps, forcing users to utilise the platform’s official app and website. In an April interview with the New York Times, Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman stated that “more than any other place on the internet, Reddit is a home for authentic conversation.” He added that they have a problem with others “crawling Reddit, generating value and not returning any of that value to our users.”

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Reddit’s vast amount of text from various communities makes it a valuable resource for building AI language models like ChatGPT and Bard. These large language models use deep learning to produce human-like text and rely on extensive collections of text data for training.

Under the new terms, applications with fewer than 100 queries per minute will remain free, accounting for over 90% of current applications, according to Huffman. Third-party apps with higher API requests will be charged US$0.24 for every 1,000 requests. One of the most popular third-party apps shutting down is Apollo, an iPhone and iPad app known for its user-friendly interface and custom themes. Christian Selig, the creator of Apollo, has said that the new pricing would cost him US$20 million per year to continue operating based on the current rate of seven billion monthly requests. Selig announced on June 8 that Apollo will close down on June 30.

Other well-known apps like Reddit is Fun, Sync, and Reddplant have also announced their closure due to the fees. Despite the backlash, Huffman confirmed that the company has no plans to revise the upcoming API changes.

Almost 7,000 subreddits, some with tens of millions of subscribers, will be switched to private by their moderators starting on June 12. Some of the largest communities going dark include r/funny, r/gaming, r/aww, r/todayilearned, r/Pics, r/Videos, r/Music, r/food, r/Art, r/gadgets, and r/sports. Thousands of other subreddits have also pledged to participate in the protests.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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