New Reddit Terms Threaten Existence of 3rd Party Apps
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 05 June 2023

Reddit's decision to charge apps for API access which come into force in two week's time could see the disappearance many of the mobile apps that have contributed to Reddit's success. By way of protest many popular subreddits will go dark, i.e. be accessible only to members, for 48 hours starting on June 12th.

redditsq

In April Reddit's founding engineer and now Chief Technical Officer, Chris Slowe, aka KeyserSosa posted "An Update Regarding Reddit's API" urging redditors, developers, mods and other to read the post in its entirety. Sure enough there was disturbing news included - specifically:

we are introducing premium access [to Reddit's API] for third parties who require additional capabilities, higher usage limits, and broader usage rights.

"Premium" - that's a weasel word if ever there was one. It sounds like something good to have - yet what it really means is "we are going to make you pay for this". 

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One of the first reactions to this announcement came from Christian Selig, the sole developer of Apollo for Reddit, an iOS app that pre-dates and is much more popular than Reddit's own mobile app. He had contacted Reddit to try to discover how the changes would affect Apollo and other third party apps. His post on r/apolloapp has a synopsis of what he was told by Reddit:

  • Offering an API is expensive, third party app users understandably cause a lot of server traffic

  • Reddit appreciates third party apps and values them as a part of the overall Reddit ecosystem, and does not want to get rid of them

  • To this end, Reddit is moving to a paid API model for apps. The goal is not to make this inherently a big profit center, but to cover both the costs of usage, as well as the opportunity costs of users not using the official app (lost ad viewing, etc.)

  • They spoke to this being a more equitable API arrangement, where Reddit doesn't absorb the cost of third party app usage, and as such could have a more equitable footing with the first party app and not favoring one versus the other as as Reddit would no longer be losing money by having users use third party apps

  • The API cost will be usage based, not a flat fee, and will not require Reddit Premium for users to use it, nor will it have ads in the feed. Goal is to be reasonable with pricing, not prohibitively expensive.

  • Free usage of the API for apps like Apollo is not something they will offer. Apps will either need to offer an ad-supported tier (if the API rates are reasonable enough), and/or a subscription tier like Apollo Ultra.

Selig's conclusion - after more points which you can find in the post - was:

My thoughts: I think if done well and done reasonably, this could be a positive change (but that's a big if). If Reddit provides a means for third party apps to have a stable, consistent, and future-looking relationship with Reddit that certainly has its advantages, and does not sound unreasonable, provided the pricing is reasonable.

Fair enough, hosting Reddit is obviously expensive and it does need a secure source of revenue going forward. However when details of the pricing were revealed on May 31st they seemed far from reasonable and the verdict was that Reddit was "doing a Twitter" by bringing in an Enterprise tier with swinging fees and Selig posted again revealing that Apollo would have to pay Reddit $20 million per year to keep running as-is. He commented:

I'm deeply disappointed in this price. Reddit iterated that the price would be A) reasonable and based in reality, and B) they would not operate like Twitter. Twitter's pricing was publicly ridiculed for its obscene price of $42,000 for 50 million tweets. Reddit's is still $12,000. For reference, I pay Imgur (a site similar to Reddit in user base and media) $166 for the same 50 million API calls.

Reddit spokesman Tim Rathschmidt said the company is trying to clear up confusion about the change on the platform, and stressed that Reddit spends millions on hosting, stating

“Reddit needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps. Our pricing is based on usage levels that we measure to be comparable to our own costs.”

Community feeling is that Reddit is in the wrong and a new subreddit, Save3rdPartyApps created last week by u/techabingo is coordinating protest action. It gives two reason why this action should be supported:

On May 31, 2023, Reddit announced they were raising the price to make calls to their API from being free to a level that will kill every third party app on Reddit, from Apollo to Reddit is Fun to Narwhal to BaconReader.

This isn't only a problem on the user level: many subreddit moderators depend on tools only available outside the official app to keep their communities on-topic and spam-free.

 reddit3rdpapps

 

The plan as it stands now is: 

On June 12th, many subreddits will be going dark to protest this policy. Some will return after 48 hours: others will go away permanently unless the issue is adequately addressed, since many moderators aren't able to put in the work they do with the poor tools available through the official app. This isn't something any of us do lightly: we do what we do because we love Reddit, and we truly believe this change will make it impossible to keep doing what we love.

Follow the link above to see which subreddits have signed up and you'll discover that the level of support is huge.

More Information

An Update Regarding Reddit’s API

API Update: Enterprise Level Tier for Large Scale Applications

Incomplete and Growing List of Participating Subreddits

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 June 2023 )