Jun 8, 2023 - News

New Orleans subreddit to go dark in protest of Reddit changes

Illustration of a computer with plywood and wood planks over the screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The popular New Orleans subreddit will move forward with plans to go dark next week in what moderators describe as a protest to changes corporate Reddit is making.

  • The changes, moderators say, will hurt third-party applications many use to interact with Reddit.
  • They will also make it harder for moderators to moderate, critics say.

Why it matters: The New Orleans subreddit, r/NewOrleans, has 129,000 members and ranks in the top 1% of subreddits based on size, according to Reddit.

  • Thousands of people participate daily in the subreddit to discuss everything from potholes to politics, usually with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

Catch up fast: Reddit last week said it is changing the pricing structure for some third-party apps to use its back-end technology (API), making it more expensive for some app developers.

  • Reddit launched its Data API in 2008 that allowed developers to build third-party moderation apps, games and user utilities that work with Reddit, including those that help the blind and visually impaired community access the platform.
  • When the new policy starts July 1, Reddit says it will enforce rate limits on API usage, essentially charging the apps to access the data.
  • Developers say the new rules will cost them millions each year and could put them out of business, according to the Verge. The "new API pricing makes using anything other than the official app financially unviable," adds tech influencer Snazzy Labs.
  • A similar situation happened with Twitter, most recently in February.

Between the lines: The moderators of r/Blind, the main subreddit for the visually impaired community, say they rely on third-party apps to make Reddit accessible, and their "concerns have gone unheard" by the company.

Yes, but: The NOLA subreddit is siding with the app developers and says the blackout will still happen. It will be "unavailable and inaccessible" June 12-14, CarFlipJudge wrote in a post on behalf of the moderation team.

  • Many other subreddits are also going dark "in solidarity with the members of r/Blind and with all other app developers who have been facing difficulties due to Reddit's recent API changes," the post said.
  • CarFlipJudge confirmed to Axios that the blackout was still on, despite the exemption made Wednesday by Reddit. He added he's "worried that the things that make reddit what it is are getting thrown to the side."

How it works: Christian Selig, the developer of a Reddit newsfeed app called Apollo, is a high-profile developer who says the pricing is not "remotely reasonable." Here's how he explained it in a post:

  • "Think of Reddit having a bouncer, and since day one that bouncer has been friendly, where if you ask, 'Hey, can you list out the comments for me for post X?' the bouncer would happily respond with what you requested, provided you didn't ask so often that it was silly.
  • "That's the Reddit API: I ask Reddit/the bouncer for some data, and it provides it so I can display it in my app for users. The proposed changes mean the bouncer will still exist, but now ask an exorbitant amount per question."

Yes, but: Reddit disagrees.

  • "We spend multi-millions of dollars on hosting fees, and Reddit needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps," Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt tells Axios.
  • "The vast majority of API users will not have to pay for access; not all third-party apps usage requires paid access," he added. "The Reddit Data API is free to use within the published rate limits so long as apps are not monetized."

What the NOLA mods are saying: "During the blackout period, we encourage you to use this time to reflect on the importance of inclusivity, accessibility and creativity on Reddit, other online platforms and in life in general."

What Reddit is saying: "We’re in contact with a number of communities to clarify any confusion around our Data API Terms, platform-wide policies, community support resources, and timing for new moderator tools," Rathschmidt tells Axios.


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