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Why the Reddit API and Blackout Are Causing a Stir

Reddit, one of the most popular social media platforms online, is currently facing a slew of issues. The announcement of changes back in April has led to the shutdown of numerous third-party Reddit apps by the end of this month. Additionally, five of the most well-liked subreddits will be closed for two days starting from June 12. Meanwhile, the “front page of the internet” is filled with protests against Reddit’s API alterations. In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind the uproar surrounding Reddit’s API changes and blackout.

What Exactly is an API?

Let’s begin by understanding what an API is. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and it serves as a communication channel between two applications. It provides a way for apps to exchange data without accessing the underlying app. Reddit has long offered a free API, enabling developers to obtain data from Reddit and use it to create their own applications. Developers can build their apps with distinct interfaces and additional features, while utilizing the Reddit API to incorporate information such as subreddit details, posts, comments, and user profiles. Each time an app performs a function like viewing a post or submitting a comment, it interacts with the API. It’s important to note that the API is not the app itself; it acts as a gateway for other apps to access Reddit’s information without revealing the inner workings of the app.

APIs have various applications. For instance, Amazon’s API enables price-tracking services like CamelCamelCamel to exist. Meanwhile, Steam’s API powers platforms such as SteamDB, which allows PC gamers to access information that may not be visible on the main app.

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Reddit’s API Pricing in Detail

About seven years ago, Reddit introduced a free API. However, in April, it announced a transformation in its API policy, requiring payment for API access. This move follows a similar trend set by Twitter, which also started charging for API access and led to the closure of numerous third-party apps. Under the paid API model, developers have to pay for each request they make. The cost increases with the popularity of the app, as more requests are made. One developer claimed that Reddit charges $12,000 for every 50 million requests, equivalent to $0.24 per 1,000 requests. While this may not seem like a lot, a popular Reddit app like Apollo can make over 7 billion requests in a month. That translates to nearly $2 million monthly and over $20 million annually.

It’s worth noting that Reddit’s API pricing is quite steep. To put it into perspective, the same developer pays $166 for 50 million API calls to Imgur. This stark contrast highlights the significant impact of Reddit’s API changes. Reddit claims that the previous free API model was not viable because users accessing the site through third-party apps may not see the ads displayed on Reddit’s website and first-party app.

Apollo’s Shutdown and the Impact on Third-Party Apps

Apollo, a beloved third-party Reddit app for Mac and iPhone, is at the center of the API change controversy. The app is set to close on June 30, slightly over a month before Reddit’s new API pricing takes effect. According to the app’s developer, Apollo would need an additional 12,000 subscribers paying $5 per month just to cover Reddit’s API costs. This calculation does not even account for free users. Apollo, developed by a single individual, was previously free to use, with optional subscriptions offering extra features. The economics simply don’t add up for Apollo. To illustrate this point, the developer estimates that Reddit spends about $0.12 per user each month, while with the new API changes, Apollo would need to spend $2.50 per user monthly.

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Apollo is not alone in shutting down. Several other third-party apps, including ReddPlanet, Sync, and Reddit is Fun (RIF), have also announced their discontinuation in response to the API changes.

Explaining the Reddit API Blackout

To protest against the API changes and their impact on third-party apps, thousands of subreddits have initiated a 48-hour blackout called “Reddark.” As of June 12, nearly 8,000 subreddits have been set to private. During this blackout, users are unable to visit, post, or comment on these subreddits until they are made public again by the admins. This movement involves six of the most popular subreddits, such as r/gaming, r/food, r/funny, and r/aww, boasting a collective subscriber count of over 30 million. Overall, Reddark affects more than 2.5 billion Reddit users.

Although the blackout was originally meant to end on June 14, more than 6,000 subreddits remain private, including r/aww, r/videos, and r/music.

Reddit’s API AMA (Ask Me Anything)

In response to the backlash, Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman conducted an AMA centered around the API changes. The company announced updates to its API terms. However, popular apps like Apollo are not expected to make a comeback.

Reddit plans to maintain its pricing of $0.24 per 1,000 API calls, mirroring Apollo’s earlier statement. However, Reddit states that apps using less than 100 requests per minute through the OAuth client ID will continue to have free access to the API. According to Reddit, over 90% of the apps available today fall into this category.

During the AMA, other API changes were addressed as well. Reddit stated that starting from July 5, access to explicit content through the API will be restricted. However, moderation tools in need of API access will still enjoy free access. Additionally, Reddit clarified that accessibility-focused apps such as RedReader will continue to have free access to the API.

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Editors’ Recommendations

  • Why people are suddenly intrigued by room temperature superconductors.
  • Apollo, the Reddit app featured during WWDC, is shutting down.
  • Why Instagram’s shift to video is stirring up controversy.
  • Reddit finally expands GIF replies beyond paid subscriptions.
  • Twitter Communities: Unveiling the Reddit-like world within Twitter.

OnSpec Electronic, Inc

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