Snippet: Reddit Just Wants to be “Fairly Paid” ☇

Shared on June 8, 2023

Scharon Harding for Ars Technica (via Matt Birchler):

As thousands of subreddits prepare to go dark in five days to protest Reddit’s jacked-up API fees, Reddit claims it’s only asking for what’s fair. At the same time, the company is reportedly enacting layoffs and slowing hiring.

Reddit used to provide free access to its API, enabling various developers to build and create apps aimed at improving the Reddit experience. But similar to Twitter, Reddit last month announced that it would start charging apps to access its API.

I’ll echo Matt Birchler’s commentary on this story:

So obviously Reddit has no obligation to provide API access to outside developers, and certainly not for free, but this argument that they need to be “fairly paid” for these is patently ridiculous.

Reddit is burning up a lot of goodwill with this move and for a company that is rumored to be headed towards an IPO, their communications channels absolutely suck, sometimes with employees commenting on threads on behalf of the company:

Last week, a Reddit employee in the r/Redditdev community claimed Apollo’s high-cost expectations were tied to inefficiencies but didn’t specify what those were when Selig asked for clarification. […]

“However, not all apps operate this way today. For example, Apollo requires ~345 requests per user per day, while with a similar number of users and more comment and vote activity per user, the Reddit is Fun app averages ~100 calls per user per day. Apollo as an app is less efficient than its peers and at times has been excessive—probably because it has been free to be so.”

Rather than simply cut off the API, it feels like there’s a large chunk of Reddit’s management that wants third-party apps gone and thought outrageous pricing would be the way to handle it cleanly. Poisoning the well by claiming technical incompetence about Apollo (although no proof that it’s not users that are simply more active) feels like a low-blow.

I really like Reddit, as some of the communities I’m involved with are great places to learn things and hang out with others. I’ll like it a lot less if third-party apps go away and the way they’re handling it really doesn’t sit well with me. I think they’re also failing to realize that no social network is mandatory and it’s really easy for a lot of people to lose interest and move on.

Update: According to Christian Selig, Apollo will shut down on June 30th.

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