Amid Reddit Blackout, CEO downplays API protest as subreddits vow to keep fighting

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The 48-hour Reddit “Blackout” is technically coming close to an end. However, the company’s blasé attitude about this issue, which clearly many of its users feel passionate about, may end up backfiring. And that scheduled two-day protest may be extended on some subreddit communities…indefinitely.

On Monday, thousands of subreddits went private, blocking access to the years-worth of content that fill each niche community. Why? These subreddits are protesting recent changes at the company to get rid of free API access for developers. In its place, Reddit is rolling out a high-priced, pay-as-you-go model for developers seeking API access for its apps. 

One of Reddit’s most popular third-party apps, Apollo for Reddit, has already announced that it would have to shut down due to these changes as the solo developer running the app could not afford the newly-necessary $20 million per year in API costs.

Fast forward to today. On Tuesday, more than 24-hours into the protest, The Verge(opens in a new tab) published a company-wide internal memo from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman in which Huffman downplayed the impact of the users’ protests.

“There’s a lot of noise with this one,” wrote Huffman. “Among the noisiest we’ve seen. Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well.”

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“We absolutely must ship what we said we would,” he continued, referring to the root cause of the protest – Reddit’s plans to start charging exorbitant fees to developers for API access.

Huffman also added that Reddit hasn’t seen “any significant revenue impact so far” due to the protest.

It’s clear that Reddit is trying to put these protests behind them as quickly as possible and roll out its new paid API next month, as the company looks to raise revenue as it eyes going public later this year.

However, it may not be that simple. The protest may not actually end when the initial 48-hours are up. In fact, according to Reddark(opens in a new tab), a website which has been tracking which subreddits are taking part in the blackout, the protest seems to be growing.

When Apollo for Reddit, the biggest of the apps affected by the API changes first announced it was shutting down, just over 3,000 subreddits had announced that they were taking part in the API protest. As of Monday morning, when the protests kicked off, more than 6,500 subreddits went dark. Reddit even went down temporarily altogether on Monday due to the action.

As of Tuesday evening, when things should technically be winding down, more than 8,400 subreddits have gone private. 

Of the 47 subreddits with more than 10 million members, only r/photoshopbattles, was not taking part in the protest as of Tuesday evening. These include some of the biggest communities on the platform like r/funny, which has more than 40 million members. Major subreddits with more than 30 million members like r/aww, r/gaming, r/Music, r/science, and r/todayilearned have all also gone private in protest.

And things may not “pass” as quickly as Reddit hopes either. Some subreddits, like r/iPhone(opens in a new tab) and r/Apple(opens in a new tab), plan to stay private “indefinitely.” Based on CEO Huffman’s memo, it doesn’t seem like Reddit is going to budge on the API changes, and a good number of Redditors seem to want to continue the fight until the company reconsiders these plans.

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise