Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Reddit API AMA and User Revolt

Sarah Perez (Hacker News):

Reddit’s unpopular decision to revise its API pricing in a move that’s forcing third-party apps out of business has taken a weird turn. In an AMA hosted today by Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, aka u/spez on the internet forum site, the exec doubled down on accusations against the developer behind the well-liked third-party app Apollo, which the company had previously accused of operating inefficiently and not being a good “API” user.


In the AMA, one user asked Huffman to clarify, “what were you thinking with your attempt to discredit Apollo by claiming that Christian threatened and blackmailed you?”

The response was surprising.

Wes Davis (Hacker News, John Gruber):

The version of Reddit we’ll see over the next few days may be a shell of itself. More than 100 subreddits have already gone dark, and thousands more plan to follow in protest of Reddit’s coming API changes, according to the website Reddark, which is tracking the protests.


In a Reddit AMA on Friday, Huffman was met with seemingly universal anger. There were a lot of f-bombs from commenters. A lot of people called him a coward. If there are positive comments, I didn’t find them.

Subreddit moderators and third-party Reddit app developers say they’ve lost trust in Huffman and Reddit’s leadership. Apollo developer Christian Selig accused Huffman of “blatantly lying” in a phone call to some subreddit moderators.

Joe Rossignol:

Apple-related subreddit /r/apple has gone dark in protest of Reddit’s upcoming API pricing changes affecting third-party Reddit apps. The subreddit is now private, meaning that users can no longer view or submit posts, and the moderators behind the community said it will remain that way for the next 48 hours, or potentially longer if necessary.

Jay Peters (Hacker News):

Moderators of many Reddit communities are pledging to keep their subreddits private or restricted indefinitely.

Pyrope2 (Hacker News):

Is there some setting that I haven’t yet found to correct this, or did they make a change to essentially disable Reddit for phone users without the app?

Dare Obasanjo:

Reddit is testing blocking access to their mobile website to encourage users to download the app. I can’t believe they found a way to make their mobile web experience even more user hostile. 🤦🏾‍♂️

Om Malik:

Reddit is rumored to have plans to go public, but they need better leadership than the current team. Huffman has shown no leadership skills. He doesn’t know how to read the room. Most importantly, he lacks the social empathy to lead a social platform. Even more disappointing is the lack of comments or intervention from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, the always chatty — who seems to have advice for every other founder, except for his co-founder.


In an attempt to monetize the content generated by the community, Huffman forgot that it is the people who make the platform. The community is the platform. It is something the owners of social media platforms forget.


It happened with MySpace. It has happened with Twitter. It is now happening with Reddit. They never learn from past mistakes. They assume that because they own the platform, they own the community. Every time they forget that important thing, they erode the community’s trust. And once that trust goes, so does the unfettered loyalty. People start looking for options.

Daniel Feldman:

Digg was one of the most popular sites on the Internet in 2010. By 2012, its users had essentially all left, and the skeleton of the company sold for $500,000.

Rory Mir (Hacker News):

This freedom for communities to experiment with and extend the platform let it continue to thrive while similar sites, like Fark and Digg, lost major chunks of their user base after making controversial and restrictive design choices to raise profitability.

David Pierce and Nilay Patel (Hacker News):

In the midst of the platform blackout, we sat down with Selig to talk about what he wants from Reddit, why he still believes in the platform, and whether he sees a chance to keep Apollo alive beyond the end of the month.

Mia Sato and Jay Peters (MacRumors, Hacker News):

In an internal memo sent Monday afternoon to Reddit staff, CEO Steve Huffman addressed the recent blowback directed at the company, telling employees to block out the “noise” and that the ongoing blackout of thousands of subreddits will eventually pass.


More than 8,000 Reddit communities have gone dark in protest, and while many plan to open up again on Wednesday, some have said they’ll stay private indefinitely until Reddit makes changes.

Huffman says the blackout hasn’t had “significant revenue impact” and that the company anticipates that many of the subreddits will come back online by Wednesday.

Sebastiaan de With:

Reddit’s AMA with its CEO on their API (read: third party app killing) is a train wreck. These are remarks from their CEO. Why does Reddit consistently have such terrible leadership?

Before this, Huffman had no public interactions with the community or website for 10 months. Imagine the CEO of Facebook or twitter not posting for a year.

Reddit communities should go dark to demand this guy leaves. This is some of the most incompetent management I’ve seen.

Matthew Cassinelli:

I have zero faith in Steve Huffman’s ability to lead Reddit.

What kind of chief executive officer posts this comment after a massive community backlash?

Colin Cornaby:

The power dynamics here are just weird. However things went down - the CEO of Reddit should be professional because they’re the CEO of Reddit. A polite “We’re sorry to see Christian feels this way and we’re sad to see Apollo shut down” would have been fine. Instead you get this from someone who wants to be the CEO of a multi billion dollar public company.

Colin Devroe:

When does Alexis announce that he’s spoken to the board and they are replacing Reddit’s CEO?


Having so many subreddits set to private has also ruined Google search for me. So that’s cool.

Muskaan Saxena (Hacker News, Jay Peters, Hacker News):

However, now that so many of these subreddits have gone private it’s almost impossible to ignore the impact it’s made on the everyday Google experience.

SpicyThunder335 (Hacker News):

Reddit has budged microscopically. The announcement that moderator access to the ‘Pushshift’ data-archiving tool would be restored was welcome. But our core concerns still aren’t satisfied, and these concessions came prior to the blackout start date; Reddit has been silent since it began.

Dmitry Mazin (Hacker News):

A lot of the analyses have examined the issue as if Reddit is an independent company preparing for an IPO. That is, they have examined Reddit’s attempts to capture its value as a training corpus or its attempts to show its users more ads. But what if we thought of Reddit as, functionally, subservient to OpenAI?


It’s no secret that Reddit’s API changes are being driven significantly by the desire to capture the value of its corpus. I think the missing piece, though, is that it doesn’t matter if anyone buys the data or not. The important piece is that it’s easiest for OpenAI to get the data (given that companies with co-investors help each other), somewhat harder for Google, and extremely hard for upstarts.


I want to address one strong idea that counters my theory: closing off 3rd party API access mostly serves an IPO, not OpenAI. If Reddit merely wanted to restrict the ability to scrape its data, they could have done so without killing off clients – e.g. via licensing deals. However, perhaps if access to training data is seen as an elbows-out brawl, I could see how Reddit would be extremely protective of its data. I mean, lyrics websites, map makers, and dictionaries go to great lengths to protect their data. It would not be a giant stretch for Reddit to do so as well.

Casey Newton (Hacker News):

Huffman is right that, in the end, the whole situation reflects a product problem: the native Reddit apps, both on desktop and on mobile, are ugly and difficult to use. (In particular, I find the nested comments under each post bizarrely difficult to expand or collapse; the tap targets for your fingers are microscopic.) Reddit didn’t really navigate the transition to mobile devices so much as it endured it; it’s little wonder that millions of the service’s power users have sought refuge in third-party apps with more modern designs.

On the whole, though, Huffman’s bet against the sustained energy of the Reddit community appears to have misfired.


One criticism I heard of my piece yesterday is that Reddit had given developers more than 30 days’ notice, contrary to what some developers have complained about. But when Reddit first announced that it would charge for API access, it did not specify prices or what kinds of apps would be affected. The communication failure led to widespread confusion about how tools related to content moderation, accessibility, and independent research would be affected, and Reddit has been trying to dig its way out of that hole ever since.

Ryan Jones:

Reddit CEO Spez just put their IPO and his job on deathwatch.

Here’s where doubters are wrong:

  • Redditors aren’t going to leave
  • Much worse
  • They’re going to stay and BURN. IT. ALL. DOWN. around Spez.

Dare Obasanjo:

Is anyone else 100% confident that if any popular subreddits stay dark for over a week that Reddit admins will just hijack it from the moderators and make it public?

They’ve shown they don’t care about the moderators and community enough that this seems like a logical next step.

Francisco Tolmasky:

If in January of last year you would have told me that both Twitter and Reddit would decide to light themselves on fire to the point that that I wouldn’t be able to use anymore, I don’t think I would have believed you. Now I’m worried that by this time next year I won’t be able to use YouTube anymore or something.

Mike Rockwell:

I would prefer that everyone leave Reddit and move to the open web for distributed, open source, community-run alternatives. We’ve allowed the current crop of social media companies to overstay their welcome. We should have all moved on from Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the bunch years ago.

But — brace yourself — I don’t think Reddit’s new API pricing is catastrophic for the third-party app ecosystem.

See also:


Update (2023-06-16): Anthony Cuthbertson (Hacker News):

Dozens of popular Reddit communities have pledged to continue a blackout indefinitely after no resolution was reached over a pricing dispute.

ModCodeofConduct (Hacker News):

We regularly enforce our subreddit and moderator-level rules. As you point out, this means that we have policies and processes in place that address inactive moderation (Rule 4), mods vandalizing communities (Rule 2), and subreddit squatters (also Rule 4). When rules like these are broken, we remove the mods in violation of the Moderator Code of Conduct, and add new, active mods to the subreddits.


If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users.

Jay Peters:

Thousands of Reddit communities are still dark in protest of the API changes that are forcing some third-party developers to shut down their apps. It’s a startling change for many members of the Reddit community, but it’s one that Reddit CEO Steve Huffman tells The Verge that he’s fine with making. Those third-party apps, in his eyes, aren’t adding much value to the platform.


Huffman didn’t have an answer for why the deadline was so short, beyond wanting there to be a deadline.


You can read our full interview with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman here.


While the company does “respect the community’s right to protest” and pledges that it won’t force communities to reopen[…]

That seems to contradict the above post.

Juli Clover (Hacker News):

Reddit also just published a blog post with “key facts” about the API updates. In the post, Reddit says that “dissent, debate, and discussions are foundational parts of Reddit,” and that it respects the right of its community to protest, so long as mods follow the Moderator Code of Conduct. The Moderator Code of Conduct is what Reddit is citing in messaging to moderators about moderation teams being removed from closed communities.

Lindsay Dodgson (Hacker News):

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman says the site’s mods are too powerful. In an interview on Thursday, he told NBC that he planned to change the rules so users had the power to vote the moderators of subreddits out.

Jay Peters and Mia Sato (Hacker News):

Some moderators of Reddit communities participating in the protest against API changes today got messages from the company: work to reopen your subreddits or else.

Zabil (Hacker News):

The Reddit App has a suspiciously high number of recent 5 star, one word reviews on the Google Play Store

Eric Schwarz (kbin, Hacker News):

Can confirm that #Reddit undeleted my comments after I deleted them and my account.

I think that technically makes them worse than Meta and maybe Twitter.

See also: Louis Rossmann (Hacker News) and Subreddit Migration Directory (Hacker News).

Update (2023-06-19): David Ingram:

In an interview Thursday with NBC News, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman praised Musk’s aggressive cost-cutting and layoffs at Twitter, and said he had chatted “a handful of times” with Musk on the subject of running an internet platform.

Huffman said he saw Musk’s handling of Twitter, which he purchased last year, as an example for Reddit to follow.

John Gruber:

Either you see the value of a great user experience or you don’t. No surprise that the CEO of a company whose website is so bad that they’ve had to keep the old one around as an alternative doesn’t see the value Apollo adds to the Reddit experience.

Ivan Mehta (Hacker News):

In one of the interviews, Huffman even called protesting moderators “landed gentry.”


He added that he plans to make changes to moderator policies so users can vote them out. Currently, a higher-ranking moderator — or the company — can boot out moderators. Incidentally, a r/Apple moderator posted on Twitter (via 9to5Mac) that Reddit was threatening to remove moderators who are staging an indefinite blackout.


Both admins and even the CEO himself in last week’s AMA are on record saying they “respect a community’s decision to become private”.

Nick Heer:

Steve Huffman is losing trust over trying to monetize the 5–10% of its user base that cares about defining their own experience.

Jay Peters:

On Thursday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told me that the developer of rif is fun for Reddit (RIF), a popular third-party Reddit app for Android, did not want to work with Reddit on the company’s planned API pricing changes. However, the developer, Andrew Shu, tells me that’s not the case — and shared emails with The Verge that appear to back him up.


Shu also tells me that RIF was paying a “sizable revenue share” to Reddit beginning in 2012, which was during Yishan Wong’s tenure as CEO. Shu says he says initiated the talks with Reddit to create the agreement, which allowed for the licensed use of Reddit’s trademarks. (At the time, the app was called “reddit is fun.”) Shu says Reddit terminated the agreement in 2016 — which was the year after Huffman took over as CEO.

Paul Haddad:

Reddit is working hard with them 3rd party developers just don’t know why they don’t want to work with Reddit.


It sounds to me like Huffman thinks individual Reddit 3rd party clients are making millions a year. That’s absolutely not the case.

Eric Schwarz:

Reddit’s hubris is what irks me the most—it’s fine to pivot away from third-party apps, but don’t vilify them as freeloaders when you’re also doing this to your own users.

Andrew Orr (Hacker News):

The Apple subreddit has reopened under duress after a protest about API fees was squashed by threats from the company’s CEO to remove the moderation teams of closed subreddits.

The Talk Show:

Christian Selig, developer of the excellent apps Apollo and Pixel Pals, joins the show to talk about Reddit’s Twitter-fication[…] (Hacker News):

Operators broke into Reddit on February 5, 2023, and took 80 gigabytes (zipped) of data.

Juli Clover:

BlackCat says that the data will be made public unless Reddit pays $4.5 million and withdraws the API pricing changes that will go into effect on July 1.

Christian Selig:

I want to debunk Reddit’s claims, and talk about their unwillingness to work with developers, moderators, and the larger community, as well as say thank you for all the support.

See also: Update from Lemmy after the Reddit blackout (Hacker News).

Update (2023-06-23): Dare Obasanjo:

Reddit is now deleting memes and comments insulting its CEO for violating their content policy.

Jay Peters:

Reddit has started removing moderator teams managing subreddits that switched the labeling on their communities to Not Safe For Work (NSFW) in the latest protests against the site.


Six verified Reddit employees discussing the current atmosphere at the company.

There are links to posts on Blind.

Update (2023-06-29): Joe Rossignol:

Popular third-party Reddit app Apollo was updated today with an option for users to decline a refund for their remaining subscription time ahead of the app shutting down. Users who do not exercise this option will automatically receive a pro-rated refund.

Benjamin Mayo:

However, the developer of popular third-party client Narwhal Rick Harrison posted a surprise announcement that goes against the trend, saying that Narwhal will be able to continue operating (after originally stating that it would have to close down). A major new version, Narwhal 2, is also apparently coming soon and will be funded exclusively by a subscription pricing model.


In a previous update, he had said that the planned Reddit API fees would cost him $1 million to $2 million annually – an obviously unsustainable affair. At the time, he floated a compromise where Reddit would zero-rate his API usage as long as he himself made no money from the app.

It has not been explicitly confirmed if that request was granted by Reddit, but it does seem like something like that has been arranged.

Update (2023-07-05): Scharon Harding:

Ars Technica spoke with developers to learn where their apps stand, how some will manage to stay afloat, and what Reddit’s changes mean for the future.

Via Colin Cornaby:

Given that Reddit seems to be coming to more reasonable terms with other apps, it’s starting to feel like Reddit was specifically trying to end Apollo.

Update (2023-07-26): Dare Obasanjo:

Reddit has started seizing subreddits from moderators who had kept them private as part of the protest about using high API fees to kill 3rd party clients.

I don’t expect this to be the end of reddit but the site will never be the same again. A sense of community has been violated in an almost irreparable manner.

Update (2023-07-31): Scharon Harding:

Reddit is campaigning to replace numerous longstanding moderators who were removed from their positions after engaging in API protests. Over the past week, a Reddit employee has posted to subreddits with ousted mods, asking for new volunteers. But in its search, the company has failed to address the intricacies involved in moderating distinct and, in some cases, well-known subreddits. And it doesn’t look like the knowledge from the previous moderators is being passed down.


Last week, Reddit extended an olive branch to mods in the form of various forms of outreach and communication opportunities, but the mods we spoke with at the time were unimpressed, as Reddit offered no apologies or policy changes.

Meanwhile, disgruntled mods and ex-mods continue seeking new platforms to continue community discussions, including Lemmy and Discord. And as of this writing, there are still 1,900 subreddits private, per the Reddark_247 tracker.

Update (2023-08-09): Thomas Germain (via Slashdot):

The last major holdouts in the massive protest against Reddit’s controversial API pricing have relented, abandoning the so-called “John Oliver rules” which only allowed posts featuring the beloved TV host in certain dissident subreddits. It marks the end of months of fighting, which included site-wide blackouts. Now it seems the battle has come to a close. The Reddit protest is over, and Reddit won.

Update (2023-08-16): Tanner Bennett:

Today, Reddit forcibly removed me (and everyone else) as mods of /r/iOSProgramming, a subreddit of about 130k users. I was keeping the sub private / NSFW to prevent Reddit from monetizing it with ads.

Update (2023-09-04): Scharon Harding (Hacker News):

Now, the ousted mods fear that r/canning could become subject to unsafe advice that goes unnoticed by new moderators. “My biggest fear with all this is that someone will follow an unsafe recipe posted on the sub and get badly sick or killed by it,” Dromio05 told me.

Reddit’s infamous API changes have ushered in a new era for the site, and there are still questions about what this next chapter will look like. Ars Technica spoke with several former mods that Reddit booted—and one who was recently appointed by Reddit—about concerns that relying on replacement mods with limited subject matter expertise could result in the spread of dangerous misinformation.

Update (2023-11-28): See also: Hacker News.

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If anyone has recommendations for a viable alternative to reddit then I'm all ears!

Note that this means that joining it can't be annoying or require any significant technical expertise.

YouTube just recently got a new CEO who loves crypto and NFTs, so people who want to work on a YT competitor should start their engines now in order to be ready when the burning begins.

Are there still people around who believe in crypto? I hope to gods there are some adults in the room if the new ceo tries to bring anything blockchain based to YouTube.

Worst case scenario it will be an 18month long pilot that quietly gets shit canned.

Old Unix Geek

Reddit CEO seems to have lost his mind.

I now see a need for a reddit replacement for "banned moderators" (and their communities) to move to. And that's for those who don't just throw in the towel in disgust. Good luck replacing moderators who know something about a field with know-nothings, "/u/spez" (should be "/u/spaz"...) You've been lucky competent people bother to take time out of their busy lives to moderate anything. They're probably reconsidering their life choices right now.

What a bonfire.

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