Categories: MarketingSocialMedia

Thousands Of Reddit Forums Go Dark In Protest

Thousands of Reddit forums – called subreddits – have become inaccessible in protest against policy changes by the company.

The site’s unpaid subreddit moderators say they are protesting a plan to increase charges to third-party apps as of next month.

The charges, announced in April, follow similar price increases by Twitter, which in February began charging third-party developers for access to its data, which was previously free.

Twitter also changed its terms in January to shut down long-standing third-party apps such as Twitteriffic.

Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman. Image redit: Reddit

Going dark

In protest at Reddit’s changes the moderators of thousands of subreddits, including the most popular subs such as r/funny, with more than 40 million followers, have made the subs private for 48 hours or longer.

Five out of the six subreddits with more than 30 million followers, including r/aww, r/gaming and r/Music, have all gone private, according to reddark, which is tracking the protest.

The move means the sub can only be accessed after the moderator grants permission.

In all, more than 6,000 of Reddit’s 7,265 subreddits had gone dark as of Monday morning, according to reddark.

Delayed IPO

Reddit filed for an IPO in late 2021 but has seen the value of its privately held shares fall since then amidst turbulent economic conditions, which led it to cut its workforce last week.

Late last year OpenAI disclosed that its popular chatbot, ChatGPT, was trained on vast amounts of content from Reddit, amongst many other sources.

In response Reddit said it was increasing charges for third parties that use large amounts of data.

“The Reddit corpus of data is really valuable. But we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free,” Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman told the New York Times in April.

Data access

But the charges also affect the most popular third-party apps for using Reddit itself, which also draw large amounts of data from the company’s servers.

Apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, Sync and ReddPlanet were set up long before Reddit had an official app of its own. All four said they would be forced to shut down when the charging system is introduced on 1 July.

Apollo developer Christian Selig said he would have to pay $20 million (£16m) a year to continue operating under the new charges.

“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidise commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” Huffman said in a post on Friday.

Focus on profits

In a question-and-answer session on Friday he defended the company’s focus on profits.

“We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive. Unlike some of the 3P [third-party] apps, we are not profitable,” Huffman wrote.

He said 90 percent of third-party Reddit apps will be unaffected by the charges of $0.24 per 1,000 API calls, because Reddit is offering free access to clients that require up to 100 API or 10 API queries per minute, depending on the client ID.

Non-commercial, accessibility-focused apps and tools will continue to have free access, Reddit said.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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