Reddit is seeing thousands of its communities go dark this week in protest against upcoming policy changes by the social networking company aimed at making money from its vast trove of data.
More than 7,000 popular Reddit communities, including r/iPhone and r/AskHistorians, on Monday began restricting access to their message boards for 48 hours, a livestream of participating subreddits shows. Community moderators are locking their forums to fight a new policy that would charge third-party developers to tap into Reddit's data troves for high-volume data requests.
Under Reddit's new policy, starting next month the company will charge third-party developers to use its application programming interface, or API, which is currently free. More specifically, the social network will charge for high-volume data requests. That's spurring popular developers who can't or won't comply with the platform's new pricing model to shut down third-party apps and stop developing tools that some Redditors say improve the user experience on the platform.
"Many [community moderation] tools, particularly the ones we rely on the most, are user-developed, " Sarah Gilbert, a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University and r/AskHistorians moderator, told CBSMoneyWatch. "It's very challenging, if not downright impossible, to moderate through Reddit's official app," she said.
Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Why have Redditors called for a blackout?
Developers currently access Reddit's API for free and use it to develop community moderation tools and build apps that enable users to interact with the website's content through more seamless interfaces.
In April, Reddit's leadership announced that some third-party apps, which allow users to surf Reddit with a variety of user interfaces, will have to pay 24 cents for every 10,000 data requests. Apps that mine large amounts of Reddit's data will have to pay to use the platform's API, while those that interact with the API more sparingly can continue accessing the site's data for free.
According to Reddit, 10% percent of its third-party developers will have to pay to access the API, beginning July 1, the company said in a post on its site. That 10% of users includes the website's most popular third-party developer, Apollo, and other big developers like RIF.
Apollo's team has vowed to shut down its app if Reddit goes ahead with plans to charge for using its API. The company said that under the new plan it would have to pay $20 million per year to continue using Reddit's API as it does now, according to a Reddit post.
"Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year," the developer said in the post.
What can't I do during the blackout?
Reddit moderators have locked access to their messaging boards in a "coordinated protest against Reddit's exorbitant new API pricing," the Washington Post reported.
That means new users won't be able to join those communities or post on their forums. The setting also restricts those users' posts from being featured. Subreddits, or messaging boards, including r/gaming, r/apple and r/funny have all switched to "private" mode.
How long will forums stay dark?
The blackout is slated to last 48 hours, from Monday, June 12, to Wednesday, June 14. However, moderators of subreddits like r/iPhones have vowed to go dark indefinitely until "a reasonable resolution is proposed," The Verge reported.
Why is Reddit changing its API pricing policy?
Reddit's attempt to bolster its revenue by selling access to its website's data comes as the company reported.public later this year; diversifying its revenue streams could help the company nab a higher valuation. As of last year, the company was eyeing a $15 billion valuation, Bloomberg
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