Today, over 7,000 subreddits have made themselves private — “gone dark” — in protest of new changes to Reddit’s API.
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a way for programs to talk to each other, and Reddit’s is undergoing some big changes.
They are implementing new charges for developers who wish to use their API. This announcement has lead to all four of the major third-party apps for browsing Reddit announcing that they will shut down. The developer of one such app, Apollo, stated that it would cost him US$20 million a year to keep the app up.
Reddit was dependent on third-party apps for most of its history, with the website only creating its own app a few years ago. Users wishing to access Reddit on mobile were therefore forced to use a third-party app.
In response to these changes, many large subreddits have taken themselves “dark” (made themselves private) for a period of at least 48 hours, starting today. These communities include half of the ten most popular subreddits on the site: r/gaming, r/Music, r/aww, r/todayilearned, and r/pics. Each of these communities carries a membership of over 30 million users.
An unnamed moderator of one of these five communities stated in an interview with the BBC that the protest is about “strength in numbers”, furthering that:
If it was a single subreddit going private, Reddit may intervene, but if it’s half the entire website, then you feel a lot more pressured. This is a completely volunteer position, we don’t receive any financial compensation, and despite that, we do like to take it quite seriously. Our entire community is supporting us against this change. It feels good to be able to have the power to say: ‘We will not continue to moderate our communities if you push these changes through’. If it’s almost the entire website, would they destroy what they’ve built up in all these communities, just to push through this highly unpopular change that both the mods and users of Reddit are overwhelmingly against?
In a Q&A interview on Reddit, CEO Steve Huffman stated that the website needs to be “self-sustaining” and “can no longer subsidise commercial entities that require large-scale data use”.