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  • Writer's pictureTamara McKenzie

Bonus Episode: The TLDR on The Reddit Blackout

In a shocking turn of events, Reddit has announced a paid API model similar to Twitter, leading to an unprecedented protest with over 8,000 subreddits going dark and countless third-party apps facing an uncertain future. The decision has sparked a heated debate on the platform's business goals, the pursuit of profits, and the impact on user experience. In this blog post, we'll discuss the reasons behind Reddit's move, the challenges it faces, and whether it can strike a balance between its financial goals and maintaining the user experience that has made it so popular.

Understanding the Reddit Blackout

The Reddit blackout began as a protest against the platform's announcement of a paid API model, which many believe is prohibitively expensive for third-party apps. Most of these apps, such as the popular Apollo, have announced they will shut down because they can't afford the estimated $20 million a year in fees.

This move has not only impacted the app ecosystem but also the users and moderators who rely on these third-party solutions to maintain and manage their communities effectively. With Reddit's history of neglecting user tooling, the decision seems short-sighted and disregards the impact on user experience. Consequently, the blackout was initially scheduled for 48 hours, but moderators are now threatening an indefinite protest until Reddit reverses its decision.

Reddit's Pursuit of Profits and an IPO

The decision to implement a paid API model comes as Reddit seeks to generate more profits and move towards an initial public offering. The platform has been around for 17 years, with investors supporting it for 12 of those years. Most investors expect returns within 10 years, so Reddit is already two years past its due date. Reddit's pursuit of profits also seems to be influenced by the ongoing AI race and the desire to get a cut of the AI market. The platform's user data has been used to train AI without any compensation, and the paid API model could potentially be a strategy to address this issue.

Balancing Business Goals and User Experience

The critical question for Reddit is whether it can balance its business goals with the user experience that has made it so popular. While it's not unreasonable for Reddit to charge for access to its API, the platform should focus on addressing the pain points for its users and moderators, who rely heavily on third-party apps for effective community management.

It's essential for Reddit to understand that many of these third-party apps were not developed for monetary gain but by people who loved the platform and wanted a better user experience. Charging prohibitive fees for API access could lead to a deteriorated user experience, ultimately driving users away.

Going Forward

As the Reddit blackout continues, it remains to be seen how the platform will navigate the challenges it faces. It's unlikely that Reddit will change its stance on the paid API model, but it could issue a statement promising improved tooling for moderators. However, the platform's track record in prioritizing user tool development leaves much to be desired.

Much like Twitter, Reddit's strengths also contribute to its limited profitability. In the pursuit of profits and growth, user experience often takes a backseat. The challenge for Reddit is to prevent the deterioration of user experience to the point where there are no users left. The ongoing blackout and protest will be a test of the platform's ability to balance its business goals with the needs of its users.


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