Something extremely shitty is happening at Reddit, the place with the worst-best people on the internet. So far, over 7,000 Reddit communities have closed their doors. These subreddits include some extremely popular corners — r/funny, r/gaming, r/music, r/science, which have over ten million followers each and have gone private in protest.

Combined, these subreddits have over 2.6 BILLION subscribers. Let that sink in. And Reddit is ready to piss them all off because it wants to milk money from AI labs, but punishing everyone.

Screenshot of a sub-reddit gone private
This is what you see when a sub-Reddit goes private. 

When a subreddit goes private, it means you, an average internet user, won’t be able to see the content posted in that community, let alone post or comment. Only approved community members will be able to see and post in that private subreddit.

That’s like closing the gates to the most fun online amusement park. For a platform that calls itself “the front page of the internet” and prides itself on arguably the most devoted community, that’s a very, very bad omen. Not just for Reddit, but for the future of the internet itself.

Rich corporate guy shouting at the Reddit bird
Credit: Bing Image Creator

So, why are some of the world’s biggest — and most passionate — communities going dark? Well, that’s because Reddit wants to choke developers and get more money out of them by locking access to its code. It’s the same tactic that Twitter implemented when billionaire man-child Elon Musk became the CEO.

Let’s break it down. Every social platform has something called API (Application Programming Interface), a piece of code that links its entire user data to the internet. So, let’s say if someone builds a third-party Reddit app that doesn’t suck butt, it would need API access so that the app can link to Reddit’s servers.

Every user interaction requires an API call action. In the same fashion, all those good bots you come across on Reddit also rely on APIs. In the same way, if an academic or research person wants to study a phenomenon or trend on Reddit, they will need API access to parse all the user data and do their work.

An angry reddit bird punishing a user while in agony
Credit: Bing Image Creator

So far, Reddit has kept its APIs free. On April 18, Reddit announced the end of free APIs. The company says if you make a “for profit” or “commercial” product that uses Reddit APIs, well, no more free lunch for you.

This applies to third-party apps, bots and virtually any other tool that makes an API callback for a product or project that doesn’t make money for Reddit. Basically, Reddit wants to say, “if you don’t make us money from our free APIs, you can fuck right off.”

The only exception is that if you are making a tool that helps other Reddit users, like improving accessibility, creating moderation tools to keep the platform from turning into an online hell, or helpful bots. That means third-party Reddit apps like Apollo, Infinity, and RedReader will no longer get free access to Reddit APIs.

Screengrab of Reddark tracking sub-reddits closing to protest APIs.
A real-time view of the protesting subreddits.

But that’s not the bigger problem. It’s the higher price of Reddit APIs. When Twitter announced the end of free APIs and revealed the prices, the internet laughed it off as ridiculously high. And rightfully so. Reddit made fun of it, too. But Reddit’s own API pricing is ridiculous.

Take, for example, Apollo, one of the most popular third-party Reddit apps. It is the brainchild of Canadian developer Christian Selig, but thanks to Reddit’s API cost, he is shutting the app down on June 30. A few other Reddits are also doing the same. Apps like Apollo are popular because Reddit’s official mobile app is absolute trash.

Selig detailed in a post that based on the current pricing, Apollo will have to pay nearly $2 million each month in API fees to Reddit and over $20 million each year. For an independent project, that fee is next to impossible to pay. By the way, Apollo is the same app that even got featured multiple times during the launch of its Vision Pro mixed reality headset.

Screengrabs of Apollo app.
This is Apollo, one of the best Reddit apps out there.

Selig says he talked at length with Reddit to arrive at a meaningful solution and even proposed a sale, but he didn’t get any response. He even holds call recordings and transcripts to prove the shit talk from Reddit representatives. CEO Steve Huffman, on the other hand, refused to speak.

Notably, Huffman told The New York Times that Reddit wouldn’t give its data for free, especially to AI labs for training models like ChatGPT. But Huffman forgot that Reddit is built atop hours of moderation work and bot building by community members, who do it all for FREE and make Reddit a better place.

Of course, thousands of subreddits joined in the protest against Reddit’s API policies, and some are even threatening a permanent shutdown. Finally, Reddit co-founder and current chief Huffman decided to do an ask me anything (AMA) on Reddit to clear the air.

view of a Reddit comment thread with CEO Huffman
Reddit users giving it back to CEO Huffman aka u/spez

The big daddy CEO discussion was a dumpster fire, and as expected, Redditors took him to the cleaners for his lies and misdirected claims. But more importantly, no relief came out of it. The API fee is here to stay. Reddit apps like Apollo will die. Subreddits will go private. Some might permanently shut down.

This is a classic example of when a tech bro fails to read the room and alienates its most passionate user base. In Twitter’s case, Musk was rightfully called out for being unfit to lead the blue bird platform.

Musk eventually realised that after a few dozen blunders and appointed seasoned media executive Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter. It’s funny, and mind-bending, that Huffman is not only the CEO, but also the original co-founder of Reddit alongside Alexis Ohanian.

View of an altered Reddit logo.
Reddit is now a two-faced fun-less cash-greedy online community. 

For all the toxicity that you come across On Reddit, it’s also the only platform where a random stranger will write a 500-word comment to help you with a science project, an impossible mission in a game, raise money for a kid’s cancer treatment, and everything in between.

It’s not the most wholesome place (arguably), but it is definitely the most fulfilling and reliable corner of the internet if you know where to look. With all the good apps gone, helpful bots disappearing, and its best communities closing their doors — all due to cash greed — one of the internet’s most beloved corners is going to hell.

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