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Explained: Why thousands of Reddit pages are going dark

Starting 12 June, thousands of Reddit pages are going private to protest new changes on the platform

Reddit pages are going dark to protest new changes.
Reddit pages are going dark to protest new changes. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

Some of the largest communities on Reddit – such as r/funny with more than 40 million members and r/science and r/music with about 30 million users – are going dark on 12 June. By going dark, or turning private, the communities will cut access to the wider public to protest the company’s decision to increase prices for third-party app developers. The protest is likely to last for 48 hours.

Last week, Christian Selig, a developer who makes Apollo, a widely used app to browse Reddit, announced on Twitter that it will shut down on 30 June due to the change in pricing. He elaborated that under the new pricing policy, Apollo would have to pay Reddit $20 million a year to continue running the app.

Reddit’s decision has come after Twitter announced in February that the Elon Musk-owned social media platform would no longer support free access to its application programming interface (API) and announced pricing details based on usage.

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Commenting on the changes, Tim Rathschmidt, Reddit spokesperson, said the company spends millions on hosting. “Reddit needs to be fairly paid to continue supporting high-usage third-party apps,” Rathschmidt said in a Bloomberg report. “Our pricing is based on usage levels that we measure to be comparable to our own costs.”

Third-party apps offer customisations and features that are not available on Reddit, to make the use of the app easier. Subreddit moderators have expressed their concerns about the shutting down of third-party apps. In an open letter, posted on Reddit, moderator BuckRowdy wrote that many moderators rely on third-party apps to manage their communities effectively. “The potential loss of these services due to the pricing change would significantly impact our ability to moderate efficiently, thus negatively affecting the experience for users in our communities and for us as mods and users ourselves,” they added.

BuckRowdy ended the letter by asking for a solution that recognises the essential role third-party apps play and considers the negative impacts of this decision on users and moderators. “A sustainable pricing model that encourages rather than discourages these apps' growth and innovation will only strengthen the Reddit community,” they said in the letter.

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