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.
The protests are happening over API changes that will force many third-party apps, like Apollo and rif is fun for Reddit, to shut down. Frustration was already brewing in the community as developers began reacting to the changes this week, but Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s responses in recent days have only escalated the community’s pushback.
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. The moderators of r/videos wrote that Huffman’s AMA performance was “a collage of inappropriate responses.” r/funny suggested the company was “aim[ing] solely at your looming IPO.”
Most of the subreddits have pledged to go private — preventing outside access — for 48 hours, though some, like the 26 million-member community r/videos, have said they’ll remain private indefinitely. According to this post on r/ModCoord, protests will end when Reddit addresses issues with the API, improves accessibility for blind people, and creates “parity in access to NSFW content.”
Among the complaints are how Reddit’s leadership has, or mostly hasn’t, communicated the details of changes to its API pricing or incoming restrictions, including prohibiting third-party apps from showing NSFW content that’s already viewable on the site. ReddPlanet developer Tony Lupeski said it was a “blatant lie” that Reddit leadership was keeping dialogue open with impacted third-party developers, as Huffman wrote. “That’s not an answer and you know it,” said user Anacharsis to the same Huffman reply.
When moderator Merari01 asked why the site hadn’t tested the new changes with users and moderators, Huffman said the company “started sharing this information in April.” A few responses pointed out the earlier announcement didn’t include any pricing information and left out details like the ban on third-party apps showing NSFW content.
Since the AMA, some subreddits have escalated their response. Over at r/iPhone, the moderators posted early morning that their original plan was to go dark for just 48 hours, but Huffman’s behavior changed their minds:
Originally, the protest was planned to be 48 hours. However, after a shambolic AMA held by Reddit’s CEO, it has become clear to us that Reddit doesn’t intend to act in good faith. When the CEO is willing to lie and spread libellous claims about another third-party developer, and then try double down by vilifying them, again, in an AMA, despite being proven as a liar by the developer through audio recordings, that’s when we knew what we were up against.
Now /iPhone will be going private, severely restricting access to the sub. As will r/Music, a default subscription for new accounts and one of the largest subreddits on the site. Mods of that community put it right in the title of the post announcing its participation, which says it will close starting June 12th “Until Reddit Takes Back Their API Policy Change.”
r/iPhone, which has 3.8 million users, echoed r/Music’s sentiment, saying, “in the (somewhat unlikely) scenario that Reddit’s leadership has a change of direction that sees the reversal [of] the recent API policy change, we will reopen the subreddit.” r/Gaming says its shutdown will begin on the 12th, and it will be set to private “for 48 hours or longer.”
At the time of publishing, a pinned bot post on the r/ModCoord sub’s post about the protest says nearly 4,500 communities are pledging to go dark, while Reddark, a site tracking the protesting subreddits, says over 200 already have.
Correction June 11th, 2023, 8:47AM EST: A previous version of this headline said thousands of subreddits had gone dark. That is inaccurate, they are currently planning to go dark. r/videos also has not yet gone private, as previously stated. Lastly, a mention of r/History should have read r/AskHistorians. We sincerely regret the error.