In June of this year, Reddit, the self-proclaimed “home page of the internet,” stirred controversy by announcing fees for third-party API calls. In response, over 8,000 subreddits, including major communities, initiated a mass strike, leading to reduced advertising revenue and potential harm to the platform.
After the leadership of Reddit announced the introduction of fees for the use of its API, more than 8 thousand subreddits, including the largest communities, restricted access to their content in protest. As a result of such actions, Reddit’s advertising revenue has decreased, and there is a threat of irreparable damage to the entire platform.
Reddit’s PR Missteps and CEO’s Controversial Actions
Despite attempts to address the situation through a PR campaign and an “Ask me anything” session, Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman (known as Spez), faced criticism for appearing unprepared. Huffman’s threat to remove accounts of protesting moderators further fueled negative sentiments. Reddit’s takeover of the r/malefashionadvice community added to the growing controversy.
The Reddit PR campaign, in which Huffman hosted an unsuccessful “Ask me anything” session, only added to the negative effect. The fact is that while answering questions from users of the platform, the CEO looked unprepared for the expected questions and criticism from Reddit users. Huffman also gave an interview to NBC in which he threatened to remove the accounts of community moderators who refused to resume work. Reddit later did the same with the r/malefashionadvice community, taking control of it.
Subreddits’ Evolving Stance and Platform’s Response
While the initial protests garnered significant attention, many large communities, like r/aww, r/pics, and r/videos, gradually accepted the API fee changes. Only a few subreddits, including r/fitness, with over 10 million subscribers, continue to protest. Reddit faced challenges in managing the fallout, resorting to initiatives like r/place, which sparked both creativity and criticism.
Amid endless threats of moderator bans, many communities have slowly come to terms with the changes to the platform, notes NIXsolutions. Among the main subreddits that refused to continue the strikes were r/aww, r/pics, and r/videos – some of the largest Reddit communities, which have a total of 91 million users. “More than a month has passed, and, as happens on the Internet, the passion for the protest has waned, and people’s attention has switched to other things,” wrote a community moderator r/aww.
Of the 8,829 communities that took part in the strikes, only 1,843 subreddits currently continue to support the protest, according to Reddit. It is noted that many of them are small communities. The only major community protesting right now is r/fitness, which has over 10 million subscribers. While the Reddit team most likely caused irreparable damage to the platform and its relationship with users by introducing fees for using the API, it seems that the company’s management still defended its idea.