Reddit CEO Steve Huffman is facing a backlash from the community after the company announced that it would be charging third-party apps for API access. In interviews with The Verge, NBCNews, and NPR, Huffman defended the decision, saying that the API was never designed to support third-party apps and that the company needs to recoup the costs of maintaining it.
He also discussed the protests from moderators, changes to site rules, and the profitability of Reddit. The CEO has so far shown no signs of backing down, even as the backlash continues. In April, Reddit announced that it would begin charging for its API, but did not release any pricing details. In early June, Christian Selig, the developer of the popular iOS Reddit client Apollo, posted that he had a call with Reddit and was quoted a price that would cost him $20 million per year to run the app.
Selig later said that, because Reddit was not willing to make any changes to the pricing structure, he was forced to shut down Apollo. Other third-party developers of Reddit clients, such as Reddit is Fun and Relay for Reddit, also announced that they would be shutting down their apps on June 30. In one interview, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman referred to protesting moderators as “landed gentry.” He said, “If you’re a politician or a business owner, you are accountable to your constituents. So a politician needs to be elected, and a business owner can be fired by its shareholders.
But on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic.”Incidentally, a r/Apple moderator posted on Twitter that Reddit was threatening to remove moderators who are staging an indefinite blackout. The moderator, Aaron (@aaronp613), tweeted, “Reddit is just digging the hole deeper and deeper. They are essentially threatening moderators of subreddits that are blacking out indefinitely that they will be removed.”In a blog post, Reddit linked to its Moderator Code of Conduct, stating that “dissent, debate, and discussions are foundational parts of Reddit” and that it respects the right to protest. However, the rules also state that the company can remove moderators if they are uncooperative.
In recent weeks, Huffman has talked about commercializing Reddit and making it profitable. One step in this process is to charge for the API. In a recent interview, he said that Reddit is “perfectly willing to work with the folks who want to work with us” and discuss giving developers a longer transition period. Huffman complains that some of these apps make millions of dollars every year using Reddit’s data, and the company has to bear infrastructure costs of up to $10 million annually, he told The Verge.
He told the publication that he was the person inside the company who was responsible for this policy change that affect these apps. Seemingly, the company has been discussing changes in API rules for years. “[Reddit’s API] was never designed to support third-party apps. We let it exist. And I should take the blame for that because I was the guy arguing for that for a long time. But I didn’t know — and this is my fault — the extent that they were profiting off of our API. That these were not charities,” Huffman said.
On Thursday, Reddit posted a blog post stating that 80% of the top 5,000 communities in terms of daily active users are now open. In an interview with NPR, CEO Steve Huffman described the protesters as a “small group that’s very upset,” and said that the “greater Reddit community” is participating in the blackout to support them. He added that, despite the protests causing “a fair amount of trouble,” there has not been a significant effect on the company’s revenue. However, reports suggest that some advertisers paused campaigns during the blackout. The company has been pushing out more ad tools to attract advertisers.
While Reddit has been rumored to go public, CEO Steve Huffman has said that profitability is his top priority. In an interview with The Verge, he said that an IPO is “something we’d like to do someday,” but that there are “a few things I’d like to do with Reddit before we get there.” In response to Huffman’s comments, moderators are trying to find ways to make blackouts effective. Some communities are also setting up servers on alternative sites like Lemmy and Kbin.