Why are thousands of Reddit pages going offline for 48 hours?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jun 12, 2023 at 01:55 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

In a stunning display of solidarity, thousands of Reddit pages have plunged into darkness, shrouding the platform in an eerie silence for 48 hours. This mysterious blackout has left users and visitors perplexed, wondering what has prompted this unprecedented action. The blackout will start from today, Monday 12 June, and is said to finish on Wednesday 14 June, shedding light on the escalating concerns surrounding online censorship, privacy issues, and the impact of API policies.

Why are so many subreddits on strike?

In a coordinated move, the moderators of some of Reddit’s top forums, also known as subreddits, decided to stage a 48-hour blackout to protest the platform’s recently implemented data paywall.

With a user base of 430 million monthly active users worldwide, Reddit serves as an essential platform for diverse communities to engage, share ideas, and foster dialogue. The blackout signifies a collective stance against perceived infringements on these fundamental principles, while demanding accountability and transparency from the platform’s administrators.

However, at the heart of the modern web lie application programming interfaces (APIs), which enable applications to talk to each other and empower developers to create amazing features and access valuable data. Up until now, Reddit, like many other tech giants, offered a public and free API that allowed programmers to tap into its capabilities under specific terms and conditions. But recently, a storm of controversy erupted as the website made changes to its API terms, leaving third-party app developers fuming and sparking a powerful wave of protests that culminated in the current strike.

What’s the problem with Reddit’s API updates?

The new API terms introduced by Reddit impose fees for third-party apps with high API request rates, creating significant financial burdens for developers. Apollo, a beloved app known for its sleek user interface and customisable themes, stands as a poignant example. The mastermind behind Apollo, Christian Selig, revealed the shocking reality of the new pricing structure—his app would be crippled by an astronomical $20 million annual cost based on its current usage.

Cornered by these insurmountable expenses, Selig had no choice but to deliver the gut-wrenching news of Apollo’s impending closure. The decision echoed through the developer’s community, amplifying fears about the future of building on platforms governed by suffocating API policies.

The blackout goes beyond the plight of individual apps and developers—it signifies a broader battle for online freedom and accountability. By darkening thousands of subreddits, this collective protest challenges the concentration of power held by tech giants and highlights the need for greater transparency and user autonomy. The participatory nature of Reddit, where diverse communities thrive, fuels the discontent surrounding recent content moderation decisions and unexpected subreddit bans.

The profound impact of Reddit’s blackout extends beyond the platform itself. It raises urgent concerns about our privacy, the limits on our freedom of expression, and the influence wielded by tech giants. It’s a rallying cry, urging users worldwide to become active participants in shaping their digital experiences. It demands that we question the platforms we use, ask for transparency, and fight for our rights as users.

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