Over 8,400 subreddits went dark from June 12 through June 14 in protest over new API pricing that is about to shutter many third-party Reddit apps. But now that the biggest uprising in Reddit history is slowing, what’s next for Reddit?
Despite weeks of heated debate, Reddit still plans to begin its API pricing system on July 1. The social media company has until now provided free API access, but—after claiming it didn’t want AI chatbots to profit off Reddit’s content for free—it announced pricing changes so dramatic that popular third-party Reddit app Apollo faced a $20 million annual bill. Apollo now plans to close ahead of the API changes; so do other third-party apps.
With the blackout over on many subreddits, Reddit is banking on the outrage passing. But Reddit—once a thriving, distinct community—has depleted significant communal goodwill in this battle. Volunteer moderators remain apprehensive of a future without third-party apps, and thousands of subreddits still aren’t public again. Reddit will try to grow revenue off a community whose most dedicated members remain anxious.
The war continues
Reddit’s sudden rollout of high prices is a needlessly painful way of reminding the community who makes the rules, but Reddit has always had the right to make money off the platform it built. No one can stop Reddit from charging what it wants or boxing out third-party apps. But because Reddit is built on user-generated content, volunteer moderators, and thousands of unique and almost totally self-governed communities, it doesn’t get to decide when the war is over. The argument will continue indefinitely—and for hundreds of subreddits, so will the blackouts. (Reddit declined to comment about the continuing protests to Ars Technica.)
A post on the r/ModCoord subreddit says that over 300 subreddits will “remain private or otherwise inaccessible indefinitely until Reddit provides an adequate solution.” Included subreddits include high-trafficked communities like r/aww (34.1 million subscribers) and r/music (32.3 million). The number of subreddits still dark as of this writing, though, is much larger. According to the Reddark counter on Twitch, around 5,200 subreddits are still dark (about 60 percent of the number of subreddits that promised to join the original protest). This number is steadily declining, however.
“More is needed for Reddit to act,” the June 13 post on r/ModCoord says. For subreddits with difficulties going private due to the social value of their subject matter (such as r/StopDrinking), the post suggests “a weekly gesture of support” like “a weekly one-day blackout, an automod-posted sticky announcement” or “a changed subreddit rule to encourage participation themed around the protest.”
The same community that built Reddit is now weaponizing its unity in its fight against Reddit. Protestors are using Reddit to organize protests against Reddit. And they’re using Reddit to share images illustrating how bad they think the platform will become.