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Reddit might destroy third-party Reddit apps (Update: Reddit stands firm)

Nothing is set in stone yet, but it's not looking good for BaconReader, RIF, etc.

Published onMay 31, 2023

Reddit stock photo 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Third-party Reddit apps are in big trouble due to an upcoming API access change.
  • According to one developer, continuing to allow access to an app could cost upwards of $20 million each year.
  • Even if apps transitioned to only supporting paid users, it still would likely be untenable.

Update, May 31, 2023 (06:13 PM ET): In the original article below, we said we had reached out to Reddit for some clarity on this issue regarding third-party Reddit apps. We now have a response from the company.

A Reddit spokesperson had this to say:

We have been in contact with third-party apps and developers, including Apollo, over the course of the last six weeks following our initial announcement about API changes, and our stance on third-party apps has not changed. We’re committed to fostering a safe and responsible developer ecosystem around Reddit — developers and third-party apps can make Reddit better and do so in a sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnership, while also keeping our users and data safe.
Expansive access to data has impact and costs involved, and in terms of safety and privacy we have an obligation to our communities to be responsible stewards of data.
Lastly, Reddit data for commercial use will need to adhere to our updated API terms of service and premium access program. We’ve had a long-standing policy in our past terms that outlined commercial and non-commercial use, but unfortunately some of those agreements were not adhered to so we clarified our terms and reached out to select organizations to work with them on compliance and a paid premium access tier.

It sounds like Reddit is not backing away from this change. Judging from this statement and Christian Selig’s blog post, most third-party Reddit apps might not survive.

Original article, May 31, 2023 (04:22 PM ET): In April this year, Reddit announced some significant changes coming down the pipeline. In a blog post, the company confirmed it would begin charging some developers for third-party access to Reddit APIs. The language of the blog post was incredibly vague, referencing only “a new premium access point” for API access for developers that “require additional capabilities, higher usage limits, and broader usage rights.” In other words, the more data devs use, the more it will cost them.

Now, we actually have some numbers to associate with this upcoming policy change. According to Christian Selig — the lead developer of Apollo, an iOS-only third-party Reddit app — Reddit plans on charging about $12,000 per 50 million requests. This might sound reasonable to non-developers, but Selig makes it clear that this is terrible news.

According to Selig, Apollo saw a whopping seven billion API requests in April 2023. Doing the math, he would have needed to pay Reddit $1.7 million that month. That would equate to around $20 million each year.

Like a lot of third-party Reddit apps, Apollo has a paid tier. But, even with that income, the numbers don’t add up. “The average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would cost $2.50 per month,” Selig says in a Reddit post on the matter. That number “is over double what the subscription currently costs, so I’d be in the red every month,” he said.

Of course, Selig (and other devs who run Reddit apps) could just charge users more money. However, Selig thinks that the amount of money Reddit plans to charge is “not based in reality.” He goes on to do some extrapolation of how much money the average Reddit user brings in, and comes to the conclusion that it’s about $0.12 each month.

You read that right: if these numbers are true, Reddit is asking for devs to pay 20x more than what each user brings in revenue to the company. Obviously, Selig thinks that’s unfair.

Selig stops short of saying that he would shut Apollo down if this policy goes through. However, he makes it very clear that he could not afford to sustain it, which implies Apollo would need to go dark. It goes without saying that if this happens for Apollo, all but only the very smallest third-party Reddit apps would follow suit.

Android Authority has reached out to Reddit for a statement on this. We will update this article if and when we hear back.

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