This week, many subreddit communities are participating in a 48-hour “Reddit blackout” due to company plans to dramatically increase API usage fees. A large portion of these users are now extending their shutdown “indefinitely.” On Wednesday, a moderator for the organizational subreddit r/ModCoord argued that Reddit executives have only so far “budged microscopically” to their requests, and as such, will continue to go dark in an effort to affect change.
A website’s application programming interface (API) is frequently utilized by third-party developers and researchers to access data including posts and comments. Reddit’s API has historically been free-to-use, resulting in a number of alternative platforms emphasizing aspects such as accessibility and customization.
On May 31, however, Reddit revealed plans to raise its API usage fees as much as $12,000 per 50 million data access attempts, drawing immediate outrage from users and developers. According to Wednesday’s protest extension announcement, “essentially every third-party Reddit app” has since announced plans to shutter due to the price hikes. One developer estimates that staying operational would cost them $20 million annually. Were the vast majority of third-party Reddit apps to disappear, critics argue only the company’s official mobile app will remain for users, one which many regard as glitchy, “not handicap-accessible,” and difficult to utilize for moderators.
Notably, a handful of subreddits considered vital to public health and safety such as r/StopDrinking and r/Ukraine will continue operating as usual, although moderators encouraged such subreddits to consider adopting a recurring “gesture of support,” such as a weekly 24-hour-long blackout, an automated solidarity announcement, or a revised subreddit rule to encourage participation in the protest.
Users and moderators’ commitment to the blackout appears to have only strengthened following the release of an internal memo sent to Reddit employees on Wednesday by CEO Steve Huffman. “There’s a lot of noise with this one. Among the noisiest we’ve seen,” reads a portion of the letter, first obtained by The Verge. “Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well.”
According to Wednesday’s update, over 300 subreddits including r/aww (34.1 million users), r/music (32.3m), r/videos (26.6m), and r/futurology (18.7m) have pledged to remain dark for the foreseeable future. A growing, incomplete list of additional participating subreddits can be found here.