Have you recently been frustrated by trying to access your favorite subreddit, only to be met with the message "r/page is a private community"? The good news is that you're not the only one facing this issue. The not-so-great news is that you won't have access to that specific subreddit page for the next 48 hours, and the reason might want make you want to stay off Reddit for a while.
Back in 2016, Reddit made its debut in the mobile world by launching its very first official app for mobile devices. Prior to this, Reddit users relied on third-party apps like Boost and Bacon Reader to browse and post comments. This is made possible by APIs (Application Programming Interface), which access the site’s information and display it within the app.
Apps such as Apollo and Reddit is Fun have become popular among users because of their user-friendly features and customizable options, which the official Reddit app lacks. However, a recent shift in Reddit's policy has now begun driving away third-party apps. To put it simply, Reddit has introduced a pricing structure for their previously free API, requiring third-party app developers to pay $12,000 for 50 million API requests.
To provide some perspective, Apollo generated around 7 billion API requests in May alone. Under the new pricing structure, Apollo would be required to pay approximately $1.7 million per month, or approximately $20 million per year. According to Apollo's analysis, even if the platform were to limit its users to subscription-only use, the average Apollo user generates 344 requests per day.
This would result in a cost of $2.50 per month per user, which is more than double the current subscription price. Because of this, the developer would incur a loss every month.
Reddit issued a one-month notice to all third-party developers, stating that starting July 1, they must comply with the new pricing structure. As a result, the moderators of thousands of subreddits have chosen to protest against the proposed API pricing. They have taken action by switching their subreddit pages to private mode for 48 hours, starting today. This effectively renders the pages inaccessible to everyone except for members approved by the moderators.
Numerous subreddit pages have gone dark as part of the protest, including popular ones like r/gaming, r/videos, r/music, r/funny, and many others that boast thousands of subscribers. As of writing, a Twitch stream dedicated to tracking the exact number of subreddits that have gone dark shows an astonishing figure of 6,647 subreddits and counting.
Despite facing widespread criticism for the exorbitant pricing of API requests, Reddit's CEO, Steve Huffman, reaffirmed the controversial decision, doubling down on the company's stance.
Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use. Some apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync have decided this pricing doesn’t work for their businesses and will close before pricing goes into effect.
In April, Huffman made an announcement regarding Reddit's plan to implement charges for accessing its API, stating:
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.
At the time, it was widely believed that this policy primarily targeted the corporations looking to build language model AI systems, like OpenAI's ChatGPT, rather than being a blanket policy aimed at all developers.
These companies have faced strong opposition from website owners for scraping enormous datasets from their sites to train generative AI systems. Internet publishers have expressed concerns, alleging violations of personal data and copyright laws, and have urged regulators to take action.
Reddit's decision now follows in the footsteps of Twitter, which made a similar announcement in February. Twitter declared that it would no longer support free access to its API, with the company now charging a ludicrous fee of $42,000 for 50 million tweets.