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Reddit’s average daily traffic fell during blackout, according to third-party data
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Reddit’s average daily traffic fell during blackout, according to third-party data

Reddit sees more than 6,000 communities ‘go dark’ in protest over API changes

 

Karissa Bell
Karissa Bell
 

The Reddit community’s mass protest over the company’s controversial API changes has started. Thousands of subreddits have “gone dark,” setting their communities private and making their content inaccessible to anyone not already subscribed.

Some of the site’s most popular subreddits, including r/Music, r/funny, r/aww and r/todayilearned — each of which has millions of followers — have joined the effort, along with thousands of other communities. The movement has grown significantly in the last few days following CEO Steve Huffman’s AMA with users in which he defended the new policies, which will result in popular third-party apps like RIF and Apollo shutting down for good.

As of last week, the number of participating subreddits was just over 3,000. But by Monday morning, the number had climbed to more than 6,200 communities, according to a Twitch stream tracking the protest. With the blackout, participating subreddits have posted brief messages alerting users that they are protesting the company’s planned API changes. Most have committed to a 48-hour blackout, but at least 60 subreddits say they plan to protest “indefinitely” until the company walks back its changes. Many are also urging users not to browse Reddit at all. Some have also set up Discord servers to encourage subscribers to stay off of Reddit.

The backlash against the company’s new API policy kicked off after Christian Selig, the developer behind Reddit client app Apollo, shared that Reddit’s new pricing would cost him as much as $20 million a year to keep his app going. The company further angered Apollo fans by claiming that Selig had “threatened” the company, which the developer promptly refuted with an audio clip of a phone call with a Reddit employee. Huffman then doubled down on the criticism in his AMA last week.

“As the subreddit blackout begins, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Reddit community and everyone standing up,” Selig wrote in a post on Twitter. “Let’s hope Reddit listens.”

Reddit’s users aren’t only upset about the company’s treatment of Selig and Apollo, though, They are also frustrated with losing moderation and accessibility features only available via third-party apps. In a message to users, moderators of r/blind said the native Reddit app was so lacking in accessibility that a sighted user had to switch the subreddit private.

If Reddit was a restaurant third party apps are franchises. We can get a burger from Reddit directly or from a franchise. The official Reddit location is at the top of a cliff. Disabled people can’t get there. Reddit is charging franchise fees so high nobody else can afford to offer burgers. We, with thousands of other subreddits, have gone dark for 48 hours. We will be back on June 14. Our Discord server remains open. Thank you for understanding; app so bad, vision required to go dark

Reddit’s moderators — who are often quick to point out that they are unpaid volunteers — shared similar. “In many cases these apps offer superior mod tools, customization, streamlined interfaces, and other quality of life improvements that the official app does not offer,” moderators wrote in an open letter. “The potential loss of these services due to the pricing change would significantly impact our ability to moderate efficiently, thus negatively affecting the experience for users in our communities and for us as mods and users ourselves.”

For now, it doesn’t seem the protest has had much effect Reddit’s leadership. A company spokesperson pointed to Huffman’s remarks from his recent AMA. “We respect when you and your communities take action to highlight the things you need, including, at times, going private,” he wrote. “We are all responsible for ensuring Reddit provides an open accessible place for people to find community and belonging.”

Huffman and other executives have defended the new API policy, citing the rise of generative AI companies taking advantage of its data. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” the CEO said. The Reddit spokesperson said the company wasn’t planning any policy changes.

Update, June 12th, 2023, 11:03 AM ET: This story has been updated with comments from a Reddit spokesperson. 

Reddit’s average daily traffic fell during blackout, according to third-party data | DeviceDaily.com

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