In this photo illustration, the logo of Reddit is seen on a smartphone screen, but the little alien figure's usual smile is a frown.
(Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)

Reddit Goes Dark in Protest of New Payment Plan

It's not the site itself, but the users that make it.

If you use Reddit, then you might have noticed that many subreddits have gone private or are otherwise unavailable.

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This isn’t a problem with servers or the site itself, but an organized protest in response to a plan proposed by Reddit’s CEO.

Basically, the site planned to revise its API (application programming interface) so that any third-party platform that wanted to use the site had to pay millions to use the site’s data, which was previously free. This change seems to target sites like Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync, which are essentially sites that make the Reddit app customizable for users so that the app works better for their phone and they can focus on the content they want.

Reddit hasn’t been the first or only site to do this, with Twitter having pulled a similar move under the leadership of Elon Musk. It basically forces people to use the Reddit app and only the Reddit app if they want to see content on the site, thereby ending competition.

Unfortunately, it’s a move that appears to be working. CEO of Apollo, Christian Selig, announced that Apollo will be shutting down because of the changes in a Reddit post where he detailed all of the ways in which Reddit’s API changes basically make it impossible for them to continue.

As a result, Reddit users have rallied as a community and planned the blackout as a way to protest the plan. It’s not only the small 1k user subreddits either, but some of the largest subreddits on the site like r/gaming (which has 10+ million members, and an unknown number of non-member users).

It doesn’t just affect Reddit, either, but also all of the sites where people might link to things on Reddit or YouTubers and podcasters who read stories from the site.

Despite all of this, Reddit’s co-founder and CEO Steve Hoffman has defended the plan in a Reddit forum saying “We acknowledge that the timeline we gave was tight; we are happy to engage with folks who want to work with us,” while claiming that the other apps that are closing down “have decided this pricing doesn’t work for their businesses.” The overall vibe of Hoffman’s post feels like a landlord talking about an eviction due to rent increases: If you don’t like it, you can leave.

Many Reddit users have not been swayed and have accused Hoffman’s defense of being “a deliberate attempt to deflect from the real issue: Reddit’s seemingly anti-competitive and prohibitively expensive API pricing?”

Other commenters on the forum also note that despite Reddit’s claims that third-party sites can reach out to them for communication, many of them have received no response to inquiries done through official forums. Others also note that despite Reddit moderators essentially being content creators for the site and doing a lot of work for the site, they receive no financial compensation, and now Reddit is squeezing money out of third-party apps, none of which will go to moderators or content creators on the site.

If nothing else, this demonstration does prove that Reddit would be nothing without the moderators on the sites. Social media sites are frequently built on the free labor of users, content creators, and moderators, but Reddit is especially so thanks to not having to pay people for the content they make.

Even more interesting is that Reddit is trying to go public and this protest shows how vulnerable is when their whole business is a userbase that could take their business elsewhere if they don’t like it.

It’s hard to say if the demonstration will be enough to sway Reddit away from this API plan, but if nothing else, it’s made Reddit a lot more aware of the power of its users.

(featured image: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images, edits by TMS)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.