Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has announced that he will be publicly addressing the community on the company’s forthcoming API changes, which have triggered mass outrage among its users. The announcement was made by Reddit itself, saying: “Reddit CEO, u/spez, will be here tomorrow to host an AMA about the latest API updates, including accessibility, mod bots, and third-party mod tools.” However, Reddit’s post about the Q&A event does not mention third-party clients, which are expected to feature prominently in users’ inquiries.
The AMA is set to take place on Friday, June 9th, just three days before a mass protest by much of the Reddit community over the API changes. More than 300 Reddit communities, including several with more than a million subscribers, have pledged to go dark for 48 hours from June 12th, including developers of some popular third-party clients, such as Apollo and RIF, two of the most downloaded clients for Reddit. With the upcoming protests and the closure of two beloved apps, tensions are likely to run high during the AMA.
Third-party API pricing
The developers of Apollo and RIF announced that they would shut down their apps at the end of the month due to the company’s new API pricing. The changes will mean that the cost of hosting the software and the data back-end for third-party apps will be passed on to their developers. For some, such as the developer of the Reddit client Slide, the API pricing changes will represent costs of around $10,000 per month, or $120,000 per year, which is a huge financial burden, and that’s beside the additional yearly expenditure for infrastructures, wages, and other routine expenses.
Reddit’s API pricing changes are seen by the developers of third-party apps as the death knell for mobile applications. Users, meanwhile, are angry about the impact the changes will have on their favorite apps, many of which are significantly better than Reddit’s official app.
Reddit moderators have been voicing concerns over the effects of API changes since Reddit first announced them earlier this year. The company’s perspective on the changes, however, has been to focus on the accessibility features and the moderation tools that will be impacted by the changes, and to claim that there will be no cost increases for accessibility applications. The company has said that apps that benefit the visually impaired, color blind, and other types of disabled users, won’t have to pay for API access.
Reddit is facing criticism for the announcement of the API pricing changes, which affect API access for apps that bring unique functionality to the Reddit community by allowing moderators to regulate content more effectively, track traction, and utilize subreddits effectively. In a statement, Reddit says it is “actively sourcing feedback on how these changes will impact third-party developers.” However, it is unclear how well the company’s outreach program will work since the vast majority of the Reddit users that rely on third-party apps have not received any updates except developer announcements.
The big picture
Reddit’s announcement of the AMA event is a good start towards transparency, and hopefully, the Q&A session will offer some much-needed clarity. However, there are concerns that the situation with third-party API pricing will not be resolved to the satisfaction of those affected. The consequences of API price changes for third-party developers will determine how the mobile application continues to thrive. As users migrate to third-party, ad-free alternatives, Reddit risks losing users if the main channel of distribution is enforced to handle API cost, and mobile developers indicate Retribution for the “ungrounded” API pricing increases.
Perhaps Reddit’s investors or those in charge of its monetization strategy are underestimating the value of the third-party apps to the overall ecosystem of Reddit. Moreover, the effects of API pricing changes leave a lot of uncertainty in the third-party app developer market. It’s unclear how mobile developers will cope with the increasing prices, nor which apps will survive. Furthermore, if third-party applications die out, users may follow, leaving Reddit’s official mobile app as the sole option, which could ultimately lead to a significant reduction in Reddit’s mobile user base.