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Is Reddit Down? Why Your Favorite Subreddits Went Private

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Thousands of popular subreddits joined the Reddit boycott from June 12 – 14 in response to planned changes to the Reddit API.

Reddit laid out its vision for the future of the Reddit API in April, which included implementing a premium pricing structure to access it.

These changes could ruin third-party apps users rely on for a valuable Reddit experience, such as those moderators use to keep subreddits safe for members from harmful content and spam.

Sending A Message To Save Third-Party Apps

In a post from r/Save3rdPartyApps, moderators listed their demands, alternative communities to join, a list of participating subreddits, and directions on how to make your subreddit private.

The demands for Reddit to consider regarding the API included the following:

  • Allow third-party apps to run their ads and provide a revenue share model to make them sustainable. This includes bringing API pricing down and giving apps time to adjust.
  • Improve the Reddit API by adding features like image uploads, chat, notifications, and increasing rate limits.
  • Better communicate and consult with disabled communities. The changes negatively impact accessibility apps for blind users. Clarify how accessibility exemptions are granted.
  • Compensate developers of accessibility apps that provide an alternative to Reddit’s inaccessible official app.
  • Allow third-party apps access to NSFW content as long as they implement appropriate age verification and moderation systems. Reddit currently only allows this in their official apps.

According to a post from r/ModCoord, over 28k moderators from almost 8k subreddits are participating. Some communities, like r/Science and r/todayilearned, have over 30 million members each.

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Subreddits, including r/bigSEO, displayed messages like the following to let members know what was happening. John Mueller, Google Search Analyst, commented supporting the protest and called Reddit’s pricing and communication about the API changes “disappointing.”

private subredditScreenshot from Reddit, June 2023

Subreddit moderators posted bulletins to their Reddit communities, websites, and other social platforms to state their intent to support third-party apps.

Is Reddit Down? Why Your Favorite Subreddits Went PrivateScreenshot from Reddit/Internet Archives, June 2023
Is Reddit Down? Why Your Favorite Subreddits Went PrivateScreenshot from AskHistorians.com, June 2023

Some subreddits chose different ways to show support without being completely inaccessible, like r/games, that decided to go into restricted mode instead.

Is Reddit Down Too?

In addition to participating subreddits closing their doors, portions of Reddit went down during the first morning of the protest, with tens of thousands of users in the United States reporting outages via DownDetector.

is reddit downScreenshot from Reddit/DownDetector, June 2023

Addressing Concerns About Reddit API Changes

An attempt from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to address the community’s concerns over API changes a few days before the protest did not prevent moderators from carrying out the plans for a shutdown.

In the post, Huffman stated that Reddit needed to become a self-sustaining business and could no longer subsidize high data usage by commercial third-party apps.

He shared the following points about what moderators and developers could expect.

  • Free API access remains at 100 queries/minute for OAuth clients and ten queries/minute for non-OAuth clients. This covers 90% of apps.
  • Premium API access for higher usage will cost $0.24 per 1000 API calls (under $1/month for typical apps). Some apps, like Apollo, have decided this pricing doesn’t work for them.
  • Mod tools like RES and Toolbox will continue to have free API access. Pushshift access will be restored for verified mods.
  • Mod bots providing free value to users will continue to have API access.
  • The Developer Platform beta offers tools for mod tools, games, and features.
  • Access to NSFW content via the API will be limited on July 5 to provide “guardrails.”
  • Non-commercial accessibility apps will continue to have free API access.
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Huffman acknowledged the moderators’ frustrations and said he respected the communities that took action to highlight their needs, including going private.

Moving Forward

The Reddit boycott, sparked by the proposed changes to Reddit’s API and the subsequent pricing model, demonstrated the profound interconnectedness of Reddit’s ecosystem, in which third-party applications play a pivotal role.

It also revealed a potential problem with Reddit’s business strategy: the exclusion of key stakeholders, namely third-party developers and community moderators, from decision-making processes.

The proposed changes pose a significant challenge to Reddit, threatening its essence as a democratic and accessible platform. The demands made by moderators during the protest indicate an urgent need for Reddit to reevaluate its strategies concerning third-party apps, considering the viability of these apps and the communities they serve.

Despite assurances from the CEO of Reddit that most apps would not be affected and specific beneficial changes would be implemented, the widespread dissatisfaction and protest actions suggest a communication and trust gap between Reddit’s management and its user base.

This situation underscores the importance of transparent and inclusive decision-making in tech companies, particularly those providing community interaction platforms.

As Reddit navigates the choppy waters of these changes, it will need to consider the interdependencies of its ecosystem carefully. Reddit’s future will likely depend on its ability to balance commercial viability and preserve the democratic and open nature that has defined the platform.

Ultimately, the event underscores that community-driven platforms like Reddit are powered by more than just algorithms and APIs – they are powered by people, their needs, their creativity, and their desire for a shared digital space.

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Featured image: Boumen Japet/Shutterstock





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