The digital world is abuzz with the recent controversy surrounding Reddit’s decision to charge for API access. This move has led to the shutdown of Apollo, a popular third-party client for the platform, and has sparked a wave of backlash from the developer community and Reddit users alike.
Reddit’s API, the programming interface that allows third-party applications to interact with the platform, now comes with a hefty price tag. For Apollo, this cost was not just high, but prohibitively so. The developer of Apollo was faced with an annual bill of 20 million US dollars for the 7 billion monthly requests made by the application. This pricing model, which charges $12,000 for 50 million API requests, has sent shockwaves through the community of third-party Reddit clients, many of which make several billion API requests each month.
Apollo will close down on June 30th. Reddit’s recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue. Thank you so, so much for all the support over the years. ❤️ https://t.co/HOJaLMW8fx— Christian Selig (@ChristianSelig) June 8, 2023
The decision to charge for API access is not unique to Reddit. Twitter, for instance, also demands high prices for the use of its API. However, the comparison between the two platforms’ pricing models reveals a stark difference. Twitter charges $42,000 for access to 50 million tweets, making Reddit’s pricing seem almost affordable in comparison. However, the developer of Apollo points to the content host Imgur as a more suitable comparison, which charges a mere $166 for 50 million API calls.
The rise in API prices is partly attributed to the rapid development of AI tools like ChatGPT, which have brought API costs into the spotlight. AI is a computationally intensive endeavor, leading platforms like Microsoft to significantly increase the prices for their Bing API. Social networks are also seeking to protect their user-generated content from being used as cheap or even free training data for AI applications.
Reddit’s decision to increase API prices comes at a time when the company is facing financial challenges. Between August 2021 and April 2023, Reddit lost about 41% of its value, dropping from a valuation of 10 billion to approximately 5.9 billion US dollars. This financial downturn has likely motivated the company to find new ways to monetize its active user base.
The fallout from Reddit’s decision has been swift and severe. Apollo’s developer announced on June 9, 2023, that the service would shut down completely by the end of the month due to the price increase. This announcement has been met with widespread protest from the Reddit community. Over 3,000 subreddits have joined a protest action, planning to set their content to “private” for 48 hours starting June 12, making it inaccessible to the broader public. Some subreddits even plan to remain “dark” until Reddit addresses their concerns.
The closure of Apollo is a significant blow to the Reddit community, as it was a fan-favorite app for browsing the platform. The developer of another popular third-party client, RIF (formerly known as Reddit is Fun), also announced that their app would shut down on June 30th due to Reddit’s “consistent unwillingness to compromise” on issues like API pricing and the display of ads in third-party apps.
In conclusion, Reddit’s decision to charge for API access has sparked a significant controversy and led to the closure of popular third-party clients. This situation underscores the importance of transparent and fair API pricing models, especially as they become increasingly central to the operation of online platforms and the development of third-party applications.