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.
“So the vast majority of the uses of the API — not [third-party apps like Apollo for Reddit] — the other 98 percent of them, make tools, bots, enhancements to Reddit. That’s what the API is for,” Huffman says. “It was never designed to support third-party apps.” According to Huffman, he “let it exist,” and “I should take the blame for that because I was the guy arguing for that for a long time.”
Huffman now takes issue with the third-party apps that are building a business on top of his own. “I didn’t know — and this is my fault — the extent that they were profiting off of our API. That these were not charities.”
“That’s our business decision, and we’re not undoing that business decision.”
“They need to pay for this. That is fair. What our peers have done is banned them entirely. And we said no, you know what, we believe in free markets. You need to cover your costs,” he says. Apollo developer Christian Selig recently did the math for us on The Vergecast, though, and suggested that covering Reddit’s asking price with only 30 days’ notice would have been nigh-impossible.
Huffman didn’t have an answer for why the deadline was so short, beyond wanting there to be a deadline. “We’re perfectly willing to work with the folks who want to work with us, including figuring out what the transition period will look like. But I think a deadline forces people, us included, to negotiate that.”
I also asked if Huffman truly believes that the blackouts haven’t impacted his decision-making around the API pricing changes at all. “In this case? That’s true,” says Huffman. “That’s our business decision, and we’re not undoing that business decision.”
While the company does “respect the community’s right to protest” and pledges that it won’t force communities to reopen, Reddit also suggests there’s no need for that; more than 80 percent of the top 5,000 communities by daily active users are now open, according to a fact sheet shared by the company on Thursday. In the fact sheet, Reddit writes that there are more than 100,000 “active communities,” that the company sees 57 million “daily active uniques,” and that there are more than 50,000 daily active moderators.
Reddit users have been in revolt after Apollo for Reddit developer Christian Selig revealed at the end of May that he’d be on the hook for $20 million per year under Reddit’s new terms. At the height of the protests last week, more than 8,000 subreddits had gone dark, and even though the protests were only supposed to last from June 12th to June 14th, many have extended their blackouts.
There are some cases focused around accessibility where Reddit has made exceptions to allow apps to continue operating. “The ones that actually are doing good for our users — RedReader, Dystopia, Luna — like actually adding real value at their own cost? We’ve exempted,” Huffman says. “We’ll carry that cost.”