Over 8,000 subreddits have gone dark in protest of Reddit’s upcoming API changes, and it’s highlighted just how empty Google becomes without access to those subreddits.
The sheer number of very specific subreddits (essentially smaller forums dedicated to a certain topic) means there is something for everyone, and if you’ve got a question, someone out there will have the answer. Even if you don’t just tag ‘Reddit’ to the end of your search query, the site usually turns up close to the top of most searches anyway, so even if you don’t actively use the platform, you’re likely to have gotten some useful information from there at some point.
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. Yes, Google can show me answers to most things and direct me to other websites, but it’s simply not the same. Why would I scroll through an article or long blog post when someone on Reddit has asked the same thing and gotten a quick answer?
Hard to find answers
For example, I’m currently playing Tears of the Kingdom and I’ve been having trouble figuring out a lot of the shrines in the game. There are hundreds of shrines, and instead of crawling through YouTube videos or tearing through a walk-through only to realise I have no idea what’s going on, I would just go onto Reddit.
I could either search for the shrine, tag ‘Reddit’ on the end and find a thread on the exact same shrine, being discussed by people who either have completed the shrine or are just giving out hints or tricks. And I know if I head over to the Tears of the Kingdom subreddit, r/TOTK (which is now private) and drop the name of the shrine I need help with, I’ll get assistance and handy tips for completing it.
Reddit has a conversational and deeply communal feel that makes it so useful. You never feel like you’re just throwing your comment or question into the void and hoping you find something useful. The comments and questions on Reddit let you see other recommendations, different points of views and links to resources. It’s a wealth of information, all in one place.
With many threads no longer showing up (or appearing private, so you cannot read the content) when you’re using Google, you realise just how much Reddit carried the search engine for a lot of people. While the protest was only set to be for 48 hours, it is unclear if a majority of the protesting subreddits will stick to this time frame or if things will go on for longer.
Hopefully, the protest will end soon (ideally with Reddit management acknowledging the community’s concerns over its proposed API changes), otherwise, Reddit’s blackout will continue to have repercussions for the wider internet, and not just one website.