Subreddits Go Dark As Reddit Power Users Protest API Changes

Protesters say a recent company decision to increase API access costs will price out third-party tools.

Reddit’s users are rebelling. Thousands of forums on the popular social media platform have gone private or read-only in order to protest how the company is treating its users.

The protest started today and will last 48 hours, during which time a large chunk of the platform’s community will be cut off from the public.

Among the participating forums, which are called subreddits, are r/funny, with more than 40 million users, as well as r/aww, r/gaming, r/Pics, and r/science, each of which boasts more than 30 million users. It’s a protest on a scale that’s unusual for a major social platform.


What Are Reddit Users Protesting?

Reddit recently announced a widely unpopular decision to hike the prices it demands from third-party app developers who want to access the website’s APIs. The new fees will kick in next month, at which point many developers will have to retire the tools they’ve developed to make Reddit easier to use and access.

By forcing third-party Reddit browsing apps to retire, protesters say, Reddit will likely see an increase in users on its own app, boosting ad revenue in the process of diminishing user experience.

The subreddits that are participating in the protest may not even return after 48 hours, according to some posts that say the unpaid moderators in charge of subreddits won’t be able to keep up with their workload when restricted to the “poor” tools offered by the official app.

There’s no denying that the protest is affecting the website: Not only are thousands of subreddits currently unavailable, but the website itself was down earlier today. The company says that the protest is responsible for the website’s unreliability.

“A significant number of subreddits shifting to private caused some expected stability issues, and we’ve been working on resolving the anticipated issue.” -Reddit statement to NBC News.

What’s the Scope of the Protest?

According to Reddark, a website created by the protesters to document the movement, 7266 subreddits are currently participating, with the exact number potentially fluctuating over the course of the 48-hour protest.

These subreddits are either private to those with Reddit accounts who had previously subscribed, or are “read-only,” which means that they can be viewed, but no one is allowed to post new links or comments. In either case, it’s a dramatic reduction of the utility of the website.

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The protest may even have ripple impacts on other platforms that frequently draw on Reddit for free content, from YouTubers to Buzzfeed writers.

One thing’s for sure: Any impact that the protest movement ultimately makes will come because of the size and dedication of the protesting group and is a testament to the communities that have formed on the nearly two-decades-old social platform. We never saw a coordinated movement like this on Twitter, for instance, despite that platform’s incredibly similar user-unfriendly API price increases earlier this year.

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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