Reddit blackout planned over app-killing API prices

Hell hath no fury like a subreddit admin scorned

It didn't take long for the Reddit community to react angrily to details of the site's planned API pricing, with dozens of one million user-plus subreddits and hundreds of others joining a planned 48-hour blackout protest due to start next week.

While Reddit announced plans to charge for API use in mid April, it wasn't until last week that pricing details were shared, and with the announcement came news that popular third-party Reddit clients for mobile devices would be forced to shut down, a la Twitter when it made similar changes earlier this year. 

In response, a number of high-profile subreddits, including r/videos, r/bestof and r/lifehacks will close their gates on June 12 – next Monday – and they won't reopen for 48 hours, if they return at all.

"Some will return after 48 hours: others will go away permanently unless the issue is adequately addressed, since many moderators aren't able to put in the work they do with the poor tools available through the official app," Reddit user Toptomcat said in a post to r/Save3rdPartyApps. 

Reddit administrators, who are all volunteers, have expressed concern about the changes because Reddit's official app lacks administration tools, requiring them to turn to third party apps to find functionality needed to carry out their duties. 

Unsustainable pricing

Much of the kerfuffle kicked off last week when Christian Selig, developer of the popular Apollo mobile app for Reddit, posted in his app's subreddit that he would have to shut down development due to the prices Reddit was asking him to pay.

According to Selig, Reddit's prices would require him to pay $20 million per year just to keep Apollo running as is, without accounting for possible growth. "I'm deeply disappointed in this price," Selig said, adding that Reddit told him the price would be reasonable and that Reddit "would not operate like Twitter."

"Twitter's pricing was publicly ridiculed for its obscene price of $42,000 for 50 million tweets. Reddit's is still $12,000. For reference, I pay Imgur $166 for the same 50 million API calls," Selig said.

Reddit staff responded to Selig saying that Apollo was "less efficient than its peers and at times has been excessive – probably because it has been free to be so," adding that "Our pricing is $0.24 per 1000 API calls, which equates to <$1.00 per user monthly for a reasonably operated app." Selig said Reddit hasn't made clear how Apollo is less efficient than other apps, and that in his testing Apollo has made a similar volume of API calls as the official app.

Selig isn't the only developer making such claims, though: The developer of Narwhal, another third party Reddit client, said last week that "Narwhal will be dead in 30 days because it would cost me 1-2 million a year [which] I obviously do not have." The developer of similar third-party client, Reddit is Fun, expressed a similar sentiment, adding that Reddit was planning to ban sexually explicit content from third-party apps while allowing such content in the official one. 

Instead of pointing to a desire to protect its valuable data from ingestion by large language models, as both Twitter and Reddit have suggested was their reason, "their recent moves smell a lot like they want third-party apps gone," Reddit is Fun's developer said. 

We've reached out to Reddit to see if the furor has had an effect, but haven't heard back. ®

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