Reddit is going to war with its own users – PCWorld

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Reddit bills itself as “the front page of the internet,” and with hundreds of millions of users constantly swapping news stories and engaging in its casual forum-style comments, it’s hard to argue with them. (Unlike Reddit users, who are easy to argue with constantly). But an upcoming policy change could radically alter the way Reddit users interact with the site. Some of them, including leaders of the site’s internal communities called subreddits, are fighting back.
The issue is a shift in how Reddit administers its API. For over a decade, third-party apps have had nearly unlimited access to Reddit posts and comments, giving rise to a wide and deep collection of mobile apps on Android and iOS. Beginning on July 1st, Reddit will begin charging for API calls from third-party apps, starting at 24 cents USD for 1,000 calls. An electronic call is made nearly every time an app requests data from a Reddit server.
As The Verge reports, with millions of users and billions of calls per month, popular third-party apps like Apollo and Reddit is Fun could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars a year in charges — essentially a death blow to these free or low-priced apps. Other popular apps that could be forced to shut down include BaconReader, Relay, and Narwhal, whose developer says the app will be “dead in 30 days” if the policy change goes through. The policy changes also restrict third-party advertising — a major revenue stream for independent apps — and access to the platform’s popular and controversial adult communities along with management tools for subreddit moderators.
Michael Crider/Foundry
Third-party devs aren’t the only ones expressing their frustration. Users aren’t happy, particularly the moderators of user-controlled subreddits. Mods from hundreds of the platform’s communities, ranging from tens of millions of users like cute-focused image-sharing sub /r/aww or the catch-all /r/videos to niche subs with just a few thousand like /r/StarTrekDiscovery or /r/AussieCouples, are planning a digital protest. On June 12th, the subreddits will go dark, closing all access to outsiders and insiders alike. Some will return to normal after 48 hours, but others will remain closed indefinitely up to and past the July 1st deadline, if Reddit’s policy remains in place.
Many users believe that the change in pricing and content policy is effectively a poison pill, intended to force these third-party mobile apps to shut down and make way for Reddit’s official Android and iOS app. It mirrors a move by Twitter, which banned third-party apps at the beginning of 2023 and shut down a thriving cottage industry of mobile apps. (Twitter is worth a fraction of what it was when new owner Elon Musk took over, but there have been so many radical policy shifts it’s hard to pin on just one). Reddit’s official app offers advertising that directly benefits the company while many third-party Reddit apps don’t show ads at all or use outside ad networks that pay the developer instead of Reddit. Reddit hasn’t shown any alternatives to its price increase, such as revenue sharing for advertising.
More subreddits are joining the planned protest constantly. Reddit is headed for an unavoidable conflict with its most prolific and influential users. The question seems to be, will the owners of the site dig in and wrestle power away from some of the people who made it such a popular and wide-open destination, or will the users successfully flex their own muscles as the site’s content providers? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.
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