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Statement: Reddit's defenses of changes that could kill third-party apps

Reddit has issued five defending statements for its upcoming policy changes that have stoked a furor.

Published onJune 5, 2023

Reddit stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Reddit will make some changes that will drastically affect third-party Reddit apps.
  • These changes have stoked an outcry, culminating in a planned sitewide protest.
  • In response, Reddit has given Android Authority five statements on the matter

Last week, news broke that Reddit would be charging upwards of $20 million per year for the operation of a popular iOS-only Reddit app called Apollo. Afterward, Apollo’s developer and other developers of Reddit apps came forward to say they would likely need to shut down should these charges become a reality.

Now, with third-party Reddit apps hanging in the balance, we’ve heard about a sitewide protest to occur on June 12. That protest involves a few subreddits with over 10 million subscribers, including the popular r/Aww and r/Pics. These subreddits, among hundreds of others, will “go dark” on June 12 for at least 48 hours unless Reddit cancels or satisfactorily amends its proposed policy.

Android Authority reached out to Reddit to get a statement on the upcoming protest. The company gave us five small statements, each addressing specific concerns of the general community. Below, we have printed them in an unedited state and included our own commentary.

Third-party Reddit apps: Statements from Reddit

Expansive access to data has impact and costs involved; we spend multi-millions of dollars on hosting fees and 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.

Charging for API access is nothing new. Many Reddit apps — including Apollo and the popular RIF (reddit is fun) — also have paid tiers. It is fair that Reddit should require developers to pay for API access, especially when these devs make money off that API. However, according to math from the developer of Apollo, the amount of money Reddit is asking for is allegedly 20x the amount Reddit makes off the average Redditor. Obviously, this math is a bit biased coming from Apollo, but questions remain about how Reddit should be “fairly paid,” to use its own words.

Developers are responsible for the efficiency of their apps and experiences. Some apps are more efficient (and require significantly less API calls); Apollo is notably less efficient than other third-party apps. There is a chart in this post that outlines opportunities for efficiency.

Apollo not being as efficient as it could be might help reduce its potential costs. However, by Apollo’s admission, the average Apollo user makes 344 API requests each day, and Apollo saw seven billion requests in April 2023. Even if Apollo could streamline API requests by 50% — which would be a very lofty if not impossible goal — that would still be 3.5 billion requests each month, or $10 million each year. That’s a big jump to go from $0 to $10 million.

The vast majority of API users will not have to pay for access; not all third-party apps usage requires paid access. The Reddit Data API is free to use within the published rate limits so long as apps are not monetized.

The problem here is that the vast majority of API users are not what Redditors seem to care about. According to the various threads related to this issue, including the thread announcing the protest, users do not want to lose their third-party Reddit apps that allow full access to Reddit without needing to use the official Reddit app or a browser. This experience cannot be duplicated using non-monetized apps because the developer(s) of the app need to be compensated for their work.

API access is free for moderator tools and bots. Additionally, we are rolling out a number of tools to enhance the moderator experience on Reddit. Here is a post that expands on this.

This statement references the outcry surrounding moderating subreddits. Each subreddit needs a mod, an unpaid leader who controls and oversees that subreddit. Moderating a subreddit is a huge task, especially if it has millions of users. To make this easier, there is a bevy of third-party Reddit apps that give mods special tools. According to protestors, at least some of these apps will no longer work when the new API restrictions become active. However, it’s possible Reddit is working with moderation tool developers to ensure their specific tools will not require paid access to APIs. In the meantime, though, Reddit’s own “tools to enhance the moderator experience” will not be helpful until they are widely available, which as of now, they are not.

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.

Finally, this statement harkens back to Reddit’s originally announced intention to charge for API access in the first place: user and data safety. Reddit’s original statement on this was to “ensure developers have the tools and information they need to continue to use Reddit safely, protect our users’ privacy and security, and adhere to local regulations.” However, Reddit’s statements so far don’t explain in detail how charging significant amounts of money for API access protects users besides simply causing there to be less access to the data APIs themselves.

Time will tell if these statements are enough to abate the users ready to protest or if they will stop the planned shutdown of subreddits on June 12.

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