Reddit plunges into chaos as thousands of subreddits go dark

Jun 13, 2023, 12:17 PM UTC
3 mins read
Reddit plunges into chaos as thousands of subreddits go dark

Reddit, the popular social news aggregation and discussion website, faced a major outage as a result of over 7,000 subreddits shifting to private. These subreddits, the individual forums within the platform, made their posts invisible to new members in protest against Reddit’s decision to introduce charges for access to its application programming interface (API). The move impacted some of the largest and most influential communities on the site. As the blackout continues, the future of these subreddits remains uncertain, prompting concerns among users and developers alike.

The catalyst behind this mass blackout stems from Reddit’s recent announcement that it would start charging developers for utilizing its API. Developers have long relied on the API, which has been free of charge, to power third-party apps offering alternative interfaces and features that some users prefer over Reddit’s official app and website. These apps provide benefits like an ad-free experience, leading many to adopt them as their go-to means of accessing Reddit.

As news of the impending API charges spread, frustration among developers and subreddit moderators began to grow. Tim Rathschmidt, a Reddit spokesperson, confirmed that the blackout was a premeditated and coordinated effort organized by the subreddits themselves. The protest aimed to demonstrate their strong opposition to the API fee implementation and highlight the significant impact it would have on their operations.

The sheer number of subreddits participating in the blackout highlights the severity of the situation. Communities spanning diverse topics and interests, including some of Reddit’s largest and most active, have restricted access to non-members for a minimum period of 48 hours. Moreover, a number of subreddits have declared an indefinite blackout, leaving their accessibility shrouded in uncertainty.

The implications of this blackout extend beyond mere inconvenience for users. These subreddits serve as hubs for discussions, information sharing, and community building. With their sudden disappearance, users are left without their preferred platforms for engaging with like-minded individuals and accessing valuable content. As a consequence, Reddit as a whole experienced a significant decline in activity and engagement during the blackout period.

In response to the blackout, Reddit’s spokesperson, Tim Rathschmidt, has clarified that the company does not plan to make any adjustments to the previously announced API updates. These updates entail charging developers for using Reddit’s API to power third-party apps, a move aimed at recouping the substantial costs incurred by the company to support such apps.

Rathschmidt emphasized that Reddit’s decision to monetize the API was driven by the need to sustain the platform’s long-term growth and ensure the continued provision of quality services to its users. The costs associated with maintaining the API infrastructure and supporting the third-party apps have reportedly amounted to tens of millions of dollars, placing a considerable strain on Reddit’s resources.

As the blackout persists, uncertainty looms over the affected subreddits and their respective communities. While some subreddits have expressed their intention to reopen after the 48-hour period, others have signaled an enduring commitment to remaining private indefinitely. This raises questions about the long-term viability of these communities and their ability to adapt to Reddit’s evolving landscape.

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