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Reddit not working today? It's a protest, and here's what you need to know
- On June 12, 2023, a major Reddit protest began.
- The protest sees over 3,500 subreddits “going dark” to protest new site policies.
- For at least the next 48 hours, huge chunks of Reddit will not work.
If you opened up Reddit today hoping to see some cute cat photos on r/Aww or to find out some new trivia on r/TodayILearned, you probably faced some problems doing so. Don’t worry; there’s nothing wrong with your phone or computer. Those popular subreddits voluntarily shut down in the form of protest.
Starting today, June 12, 2023, over 3,500 subreddits will “go dark” to protest planned changes to how the site treats third-party developers. In other words, the fact that you can’t access major sections of Reddit is not an accident but very much by design.
If that’s all you need to know, you can simply close Reddit and move on with your day. Theoretically, a large portion of those subreddits will be back on June 14. Until then, you’ll just need to not use Reddit, which, of course, is what the protestors are banking on. However, if you’re curious about why this is happening, we have a brief explanation below.
Background: How does Reddit work?
To understand this protest, you need first to understand how Reddit works. Reddit is made up of millions of subreddits, with each subreddit focused on a particular topic. For example, r/Marvel is centered on the Marvel universe. Likewise, r/Android is focused on Android phones and the operating system itself, while r/OnePlus is solely focused on OnePlus products. There are millions of subreddits, although only a tiny percentage of them are considered to be active.
Anyone can create a subreddit that focuses on any topic(s) they choose. However, each subreddit needs at least one moderator — a person in charge of the subreddit to ensure posts stay on topic and that problems like hate speech, unwanted NSFW content, and other issues are dealt with promptly. Some subreddits have just one moderator, but larger ones can have an entire team. Moderators are not employed by Reddit, nor are they paid for their work.
When a subreddit gets very large, moderators must use bots and other automated tools to deal with the overwhelming work it takes to keep things running. These third-party apps need to interact with Reddit APIs — essentially a doorway to data that Reddit makes available. Historically, access to these APIs has been free, which has helped to create a thriving community of developers, all creating unique tools to make Reddit easier to moderate. Consequently, there have also been a ton of third-party Reddit apps developed for users as well. Apps such as Sync, RIF (previously known as reddit is fun), Apollo, and others, allow users to get a wholly different experience of Reddit than the official mobile app offers.
Earlier this year, Reddit announced a significant change: it would no longer offer free API access to just anyone. Certain apps would be able to access the API for free, but the biggest, most popular ones would need to start paying for the privilege. At the time, developers weren’t pleased with this news but were assured that the prices for API access would be “based in reality” and would not dramatically affect how things worked.
That brings us to last week.
Why is this Reddit protest happening?
Christian Selig, the developer of the popular iOS-only Reddit app Apollo, was the first to break the news of how much developers would need to pay to use Reddit’s APIs. By Selig’s estimations, it would cost him around $20 million each year to run Apollo under these new terms. For the sake of clarity, that means Apollo’s API costs were jumping from $0 each year to $20 million.
As one would expect, Seliug did not think this was fair. He also didn’t think it was fair that Reddit gave him just 60 days before this change would happen, which is hardly enough time to prepare for a change of this magnitude. Selig posted his thoughts online and even included recorded conversations with Reddit representatives.
This information caused an outcry across Reddit. Essentially, under these new terms, apps and tools moderators and users have relied on for years would suddenly become financially untenable.
This was when the idea for the protests began. The subreddit r/Save3rdPartyApps started, and users started convincing mods to “go dark” — cease all access to their subreddits — for a set period of time. Eventually, this was decided as June 12, 2023, for 48 hours at least.
Since that decision, Reddit has amended its stance only slightly. Even a disastrous AMA with Steve Huffman, Reddit’s CEO, didn’t change anything. Apollo, Sync, and RIF will all shut down permanently starting June 30, which is a huge blow to the Reddit community. So, today, in response, vast chunks of Reddit don’t work and won’t work for the next two days.