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Thousands of Reddit communities remain dark as protest continues

Thousands of Reddit communities remain dark as protest continues


Following an initial 48-hour protest this week, many of the site’s biggest subreddits remain inaccessible, with moderators saying they won’t budge until Reddit meets their demands. 

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An illustration of the Reddit logo.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Thousands of subreddits are continuing to protest beyond the initial 48-hour blackout, as Reddit says it has no plans to back down from the changes it’s making to its API. As of this writing, one counter lists over 5,000 subreddits that are still dark, which include some of the site’s most popular communities with tens of millions of subscribers each. 

Some, such as r/funny, r/aww, r/Music, r/science, and r/videos are private and remain inaccessible. Others, like r/pics and r/Art are restricted, meaning it’s possible to view old posts but not submit new content. In these two cases, the last new posts from the community were on June 12th before the protest began.

The protests kicked off earlier this week over changes Reddit is planning to make to its API. The core complaint is how much Reddit plans to charge some popular third-party apps such as Apollo, which has said it would face unaffordable bills of around $20 million annually under the new pricing. As a result, Apollo, as well as other apps like rif is fun (previously Reddit is Fun), ReddPlanet, and Sync, have said they’re shutting down at the end of the month. Protesting moderators have also raised concerns about how these changes were communicated as well as changes to how mature content is served through its API.

At its peak, Reddark was reporting that over 8,000 subreddits had gone dark in protest. The sheer amount of subreddits setting themselves to private also caused stability issues for the site more generally, with users struggling to access the remaining public content. 

When it initially announced the API changes in April, Reddit pitched them as a way the company could get paid by AI researchers looking to use the content on its site to train large language models (LLMs). But it’s also part of a push to make the company profitable ahead of an expected IPO later this year. “Two things happened at the same time: the LLM explosion put all Reddit data use at the forefront, and our continuing efforts to reign in costs to make Reddit self-sustaining put a spotlight on the tens of millions of dollars it costs us annually to support the [third-party] apps,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote in response to a question last week. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” he added.

Despite the protests, Reddit isn’t backing down from making the changes. “We’re not planning any changes to the API updates we’ve previously announced,” a Reddit spokesperson told The Guardian. “We spend multimillions of dollars on hosting fees and Reddit needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps.”

Reddit has carved out some exceptions for apps that are not monetized and are within its rate limits, moderator tools and bots, and accessibility-focused apps, but this has failed to assuage the concerns of protesting moderators.

According to a post about the ongoing protest plans, over 300 subreddits have committed to staying dark “indefinitely.” In a memo to staff sent Monday, Huffman sounded an optimistic tone about the protest’s length. “Like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass,” the CEO wrote.