Thousands of popular subreddits joined a Reddit boycott from June 12 – 14 in response to planned changes to the Reddit API.
As a result, a large portion of the trending content millions expect to see daily became unavailable, forcing Reddit users to turn to other social networks for entertainment.
Reddit laid out its vision for the future of the Reddit API in April, which included implementing a premium pricing structure to access it.
These changes could ruin third-party apps users rely on for a valuable Reddit experience, such as those moderators use to keep subreddits safe for members from harmful content and spam.
Because Reddit moderators control user access to the content within the subreddit communities they manage, they could voice their disagreement with the upcoming API changes in a unique way.
But after June 14, hundreds of popular subreddits will continue the Reddit boycott indefinitely. Here’s why.
300+ Subreddits Extend Reddit Boycott After Leaked Memo
According to a new post on r/ModCoord, over 300 subreddits – including several with upwards of 34 million members – announced the intent to stay private until Reddit re-evaluates its decision to change the API.
The extended protest may come as a response to a leaked memo reportedly from Reddit CEO Huffman. The memo attempted to reassure employees that things would return to normal after Wednesday.
We have not seen any significant revenue impact so far and we will continue to monitor.
It also reaffirmed Reddit’s commitment to rolling out the new API changes, regardless of the resulting “noise.”
The most important things we can do right now are stay focused, adapt to challenges, and keep moving forward. We absolutely must ship what we said we would. The only long term solution is improving our product, and in the short term we have a few upcoming critical mod tool launches we need to nail.
Eerily, the memo ended with a warning:
I am sorry to say this, but please be mindful of wearing Reddit gear in public. Some folks are really upset, and we don’t want you to be the object of their frustrations.
What Is The Reddit Protest About?
In a post from r/Save3rdPartyApps, moderators listed their demands, alternative social networks to join, a list of participating subreddits, and directions on how to make your subreddit private.
The demands for Reddit to consider regarding the API included the following:
- Allow third-party apps to run their ads and provide a revenue share model to make them sustainable. This includes bringing API pricing down and giving apps time to adjust.
- Improve the Reddit API by adding features like image uploads, chat, notifications, and increasing rate limits.
- Better communicate and consult with disabled communities. The changes negatively impact accessibility apps for blind users. Clarify how accessibility exemptions are granted.
- Compensate developers of accessibility apps that provide an alternative to Reddit’s inaccessible official app.
- Allow third-party apps access to NSFW content as long as they implement appropriate age verification and moderation systems. Reddit currently only allows this in their official apps.
According to a post from r/ModCoord, over 28k moderators from over 7k subreddits (90% of the communities on Reddit) are participating. Some communities, like r/Science and r/todayilearned, have over 30 million members each.
Subreddits, including r/bigSEO, displayed messages like the following to let members know what was happening.
John Mueller, Google Search Analyst, commented supporting the protest and called Reddit’s pricing and communication about the API changes “disappointing.”
Subreddit moderators posted bulletins to their Reddit communities, websites, and other social platforms to state their intent to support third-party apps.
I moderate the /r/reactjs subreddit. I just posted an announcement that we'll be shutting down the sub June 12-14 to join the protest against Reddit's API pricing changes and killing of 3rd-party apps:https://t.co/ISmKo33WFb
— Mark Erikson (@acemarke) June 9, 2023
As the subreddit blackout begins, I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Reddit community and everyone standing up ❤️ Let's hope Reddit listens https://t.co/h6cSYTBZhH
— Christian Selig (@ChristianSelig) June 12, 2023
Some subreddits chose different ways to show support without being completely inaccessible, like r/games, that decided to go into restricted mode instead.
How The Reddit Boycott Affected Users
Reddit users turned to other social networks to voice their disappointment over losing their favorite subreddits.
I never considered how devastating this whole reddit blackout is for troubleshooting. So many helpful answers just gone overnight pic.twitter.com/V5RVUy1Lpn
— Bob Wulff _(┐「ε:)_ᶻzZ (@BobWulff) June 14, 2023
How The Reddit Boycott Could Affect Organic Search Traffic
Will private subreddits drop from Google search results? Patrick Stox, a moderator of r/TechSEO, noticed that private subreddits have <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”/> on their page headers.
Uh oh, this isn't good for @reddit. The pages from the protesting communities are going to start dropping out of search engines because of this noindex tag.
It's going to be interesting to see the traffic impact of this. pic.twitter.com/unZ0ytUd5Z
— Patrick Stox (@patrickstox) June 12, 2023
Is Reddit Down? Early Stages Of Boycott Shut Down Reddit Homepage
In addition to participating subreddits closing their doors, portions of Reddit went down during the first morning of the protest, with tens of thousands of users in the United States reporting outages via DownDetector.
While the main portion of Reddit resumed working, many users are still confused about whether Reddit is down or if they were banned from their favorite communities because they suddenly became unavailable.
A Failed Attempt To Address Concerns About Reddit API Changes
An attempt from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to address the community’s concerns over API changes a few days before the protest did not prevent moderators from carrying out the plans for a shutdown.
In the post, Huffman stated that Reddit needed to become a self-sustaining business and could no longer subsidize high data usage by commercial third-party apps.
He shared the following points about what moderators and developers could expect.
- Free API access remains at 100 queries/minute for OAuth clients and ten queries/minute for non-OAuth clients. This covers 90% of apps.
- Premium API access for higher usage will cost $0.24 per 1000 API calls (under $1/month for typical apps). Some apps, like Apollo, have decided this pricing doesn’t work for them.
- Mod tools like RES and Toolbox will continue to have free API access. Pushshift access will be restored for verified mods.
- Mod bots providing free value to users will continue to have API access.
- The Developer Platform beta offers tools for mod tools, games, and features.
- Access to NSFW content via the API will be limited on July 5 to provide “guardrails.”
- Non-commercial accessibility apps will continue to have free API access.
Huffman acknowledged the moderators’ frustrations and said he respected the communities that took action to highlight their needs, including going private.
The Challenges Of Reddit Moving Forward With API Changes
The Reddit boycott, sparked by the proposed changes to Reddit’s API and the subsequent pricing model, demonstrated the profound interconnectedness of Reddit’s ecosystem, in which third-party applications play a pivotal role.
It also revealed a potential problem with Reddit’s business strategy: the exclusion of key stakeholders, namely third-party developers and community moderators, from decision-making processes.
The proposed changes pose a significant challenge to Reddit, threatening its essence as a democratic and accessible platform. The demands made by moderators during the protest indicate an urgent need for Reddit to reevaluate its strategies concerning third-party apps, considering the viability of these apps and the communities they serve.
Despite assurances from the CEO of Reddit that most apps would not be affected and specific beneficial changes would be implemented, the widespread dissatisfaction and protest actions suggest a communication and trust gap between Reddit’s management and its user base.
This situation underscores the importance of transparent and inclusive decision-making in tech companies, particularly those providing community interaction platforms.
As Reddit navigates the choppy waters of these changes, it will need to consider the interdependencies of its ecosystem carefully. Reddit’s future will likely depend on its ability to balance commercial viability and preserve the democratic and open nature that has defined the platform.
Ultimately, the event underscores that community-driven platforms like Reddit are powered by more than just algorithms and APIs – they are powered by people, their needs, their creativity, and their desire for a shared digital space.
Featured image: oasisamuel/Shutterstock