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Reddit API Pricing Change Blackout is a controversy surrounding the change in API policy and pricing announced by Reddit in May 2023, which introduced large fees charged by the platform for requests to their API. The announced pricing change threatened the existence of third-party apps used to browse Reddit, such as Apollo and Reddit is Fun, as well as tools used by subreddit moderators to manage their communities. On June 12th, 2023, a massive blackout protest joined by over 8,000 subreddits started on the platform.
On April 18th, 2023, Reddit CTO Christopher Slowe (/u/KeyserSosa) announced an update regarding Reddit's API policy in the /r/reddit subreddit, with the full revision to the policy posted on Reddit Inc. The announced changes were scheduled to become effective on June 19th, 2023.
On May 31st, Reddit employee FlyingLaserTurtle posted an update to the API policy, announcing that Reddit will start enforcing a 60 queries / minute limit for API (application programming interface) requests and that an "enterprise tier" fee will be introduced for large-scale third-party apps using Reddit's API (shown below), effective on July 1st, 2023.
A key policy change was the introduction of a fee for calls made to Reddit's API, with 50 million requests now costing $12,000, which would primarily affect third-party apps used for browsing Reddit, including Apollo, Reddit is Fun, Narwhal and BaconReader. Additionally, Reddit would block ads in third-party apps, removing a revenue stream, and make access to sexually explicit material unavailable via the API, meaning that third-party apps would not be able to display it. Additionally, subreddit moderators voiced concerns that the closure of third-party apps would negatively impact their management of Reddit communities as they utilized said apps.
On May 31st, 2023, Christian Selig (/u/iamthatis), the developer of Apollo, a popular third-party app for browsing Reddit, made a post in which he shared details about his call with Reddit regarding the new pricing. In the post, Selig stated that in the last month, Apollo made 7 billion requests to Reddit's API, which would amount to $1.7 million, or $20 million per year, describing that the announced price was unreasonable and not based in reality.
For Apollo, the average user uses 344 requests daily, or 10.6K monthly. With the proposed API pricing, the average user in Apollo would cost $2.50, which is is 20x higher than a generous estimate of what each users brings Reddit in revenue.
Selig's post earned over 159,000 upvotes in the /r/apolloapp subreddit in one week. Later that day, Andrew "talklittle" Shu, the developer of Reddit is Fun, another third-party app for Reddit, wrote that the announced changes would likely kill Reddit is Fun and other similar apps.
On June 1st, 2023, Reddit powermod BuckRowdy posted an open letter regarding the API policy change, urging Reddit to reconsider it.
We ask for a solution that recognizes the vital role these third-party apps play and takes into consideration the negative impacts this decision might have on both users and moderators. A sustainable pricing model that encourages rather than discourages these apps' growth and innovation will only strengthen the Reddit community.
The open letter gained over 13,500 upvotes in the /r/ModCoord subreddit and was signed by over 6,800 users.
June 2023 Blackout
On June 2nd, 2023, Redditor Toptomcat created /r/Save3rdPartyApps, a subreddit centered around collective action to preserve third-party apps from shutting down. On that day, Toptomcat made a post titled "Don't Let Reddit Kill 3rd Party Apps!" in which they proposed to hold a two-day blackout protest on June 12th and 13th to press the platform into abandoning or altering the changes. The post garnered over 48,400 upvotes in the subreddit in five days (shown below).
In the following days, moderators of multiple subreddits made posts in which they announced that their communities will be joining the June 12th blackout, with many subreddits threatening to stay locked indefinitely until an agreement is reached. As of June 6th, 2023, the list of participating subreddits included /r/aww, /r/gaming, /r/Music, /r/Pics and multiple other large subreddits (partial list as of June 6th, 2023, shown below).
Apollo Controversy and Spez AMA
On June 8th, 2023, Christian Selig (/u/iamthatis), the developer of Apollo, announced that the app will close down on June 30th, announcing the news on Reddit and Twitter (post shown below). In a lengthy Reddit post, Selig stated that Reddit put "bizarre allegations of blackmailing" from Reddit, that Reddit refused to extend the amount of time until the changes take effect and addressed the claims from Reddit that Apollo is "inefficient." Additionally, Selig stated his full support for the June 12th blackout. The post gained over 210,000 upvotes in four days, becoming one of the most upvoted posts of the year.
On June 12th, 2023, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (/u/spez) and a group of Reddit admins held an AMA session to address the controversy and the upcoming blackout. In the AMA, Huffman doubled down on the previously announced changes. Spez also replied to a comment about his accusation that Selig attempted to coerce Reddit into giving him $10 million, which some characterized as a joke.
The response drew criticism from users on Reddit and other social media, with many voicing their support for the strike (examples shown below).
On June 12th, 2023, the blackout started with over 8,000 subreddits purportedly participating. As of 4:35 p.m. EST on June 12th, the reddark_247 Twitch channel (a livestream of the subreddits going private) had nearly 4,600 viewers and 7,857 out of 8,191 subreddits going dark, totaling roughly 95.92 percent of the blackout pledges.
On June 13th, 2023, The Verge reported on a leaked internal memo sent by Reddit's CEO Steve "spez" Huffman to Reddit employees, in which he asked them to "block out the noise" and that the ongoing blackout will eventually pass.
As the 48-hour window initially scheduled for the blackout passed with no negotiation from Reddit, over 300 subreddits, including /r/aww, /r/music and /r/videos, announced that they will remain private indefinitely until Reddit provides an "adequate solution."
As of June 15th, 2023, over 5,300 subreddits out of 8,800 subreddits participating in the blackout, remained private.
On June 14th, /r/AdviceAnimals reopened as a result of a moderator named CedarWolf allegedly superseding other moderators of the sub and going directly to Reddit administrators to keep the subreddit open during the blackout. Furthermore, there is evidence that any posts questioning the decision were deleted by the moderator.
As a result, some expressed the situation potentially sets a disturbing precedent for Reddit in which pro-Reddit moderators are promoted to act in the site's best interest while moderators who are more critical and supportive of blackouts and other protests are forcibly removed from power.
 Reddit – 📣 Had a call with Reddit to discuss pricing. Bad news for third-party apps, their announced pricing is close to Twitter's pricing, and Apollo would have to pay Reddit $20 million per year to keep running as-is.
 Reddit – 📣 Apollo will close down on June 30th. Reddit’s recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue. Thank you so, so much for all the support over the years. ❤️
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