Is Reddit Down? Subreddit Moderators Extend Boycott Indefinitely After Leaked Memo

Thousands of popular subreddits join Reddit boycott

From June 12 to June 14, thousands of popular subreddits participated in a boycott of Reddit in protest of planned changes to the Reddit API. This boycott had a significant impact on the availability of trending content on the platform, forcing Reddit users to seek entertainment on other social networks.

The changes proposed by Reddit in April included implementing a premium pricing structure for accessing the API. This had the potential to negatively affect third-party apps that users rely on for a valuable Reddit experience. These apps, used by moderators to keep subreddits safe from harmful content and spam, might not be sustainable under the new pricing structure.

One of the unique aspects of Reddit is that moderators have control over user access to the content within the subreddit communities they manage. This gave them the opportunity to voice their disagreement with the upcoming API changes in a unique way.

After June 14, hundreds of popular subreddits decided to continue the boycott indefinitely. This decision was announced in a post on r/ModCoord, where over 300 subreddits, including those with millions of members, expressed their intent to stay private until Reddit re-evaluated its decision to change the API.

The boycott may have been triggered by a leaked memo reportedly from Reddit CEO Huffman. The memo attempted to reassure employees that the impact on revenue so far had not been significant and that the company would continue to monitor the situation. It also emphasized Reddit’s commitment to implementing the new API changes, regardless of the “noise” surrounding them.

The memo ended with a warning to employees, asking them to be mindful of wearing Reddit gear in public as some individuals might be upset with the company’s decisions.

What is the Reddit protest about?

In a post from r/Save3rdPartyApps, moderators listed their demands, provided alternative social networks to join, and shared a list of participating subreddits. They also included instructions on how to make a subreddit private.

The demands put forth by the moderators for Reddit to consider regarding the API changes included:

  • Allowing third-party apps to run their ads and providing a revenue share model to make them sustainable. This included bringing API pricing down and giving apps time to adjust.
  • Improving the Reddit API by adding features like image uploads, chat, notifications, and increasing rate limits.
  • Better communication and consultation with disabled communities. The changes negatively impact accessibility apps for blind users, so clarification on how accessibility exemptions are granted was requested.
  • Compensating developers of accessibility apps that provide an alternative to Reddit’s inaccessible official app.
  • Allowing third-party apps access to NSFW content as long as they implement appropriate age verification and moderation systems. Currently, Reddit only allows this in their official apps.

The post from r/ModCoord revealed that over 28,000 moderators from over 7,000 subreddits, which accounted for 90% of the communities on Reddit, were participating in the protest. Notable communities like r/Science and r/todayilearned, each with over 30 million members, were also part of the boycott.

Subreddits such as r/bigSEO displayed messages to inform their members about the boycott and its reasons. Prominent figures like John Mueller, a Google Search Analyst, expressed support for the protest and criticized Reddit’s pricing and communication regarding the API changes.

Subreddit moderators took to various platforms, including their Reddit communities and other social media, to announce their support for third-party apps and the boycott.

How did the Reddit boycott affect users?

During the boycott, Reddit users had to turn to other social networks to express their disappointment over losing access to their favorite subreddits. Many users lamented the loss of helpful answers and troubleshooting assistance that were previously available on Reddit.

A user on Twitter, Bob Wulff, shared a screenshot showing the impact of the blackout on troubleshooting, noting that many helpful answers had disappeared overnight.

Overall, the boycott had a significant impact on user experience and forced users to find alternative platforms for entertainment and information.

How could the Reddit boycott affect organic search traffic?

There was concern that private subreddits participating in the boycott could drop from Google search results. Patrick Stox, a moderator of r/TechSEO, noticed that private subreddits had a “meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"” tag in their page headers.

This tag indicates to search engines that the pages should not be indexed or followed, which could result in the pages being excluded from search engine results. The impact of this on traffic to the protesting communities was expected to be significant.

Is Reddit down? Early stages of boycott cause disruptions

During the initial stages of the boycott, portions of Reddit experienced outages. Tens of thousands of users in the United States reported outages via DownDetector, a platform for monitoring website and app outages.

Although the main portion of Reddit resumed working, many users were left confused about whether Reddit was down or if they were banned from their favorite communities due to their sudden unavailability.

A failed attempt to address concerns about Reddit API changes

A few days before the protest, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman made an attempt to address the community’s concerns regarding the API changes. However, his post did not prevent moderators from carrying out their plans for the shutdown.

In his post, Huffman emphasized the need for Reddit to become a self-sustaining business and stated that the company could no longer subsidize high data usage by commercial third-party apps. He outlined the following points regarding API access:

  • Free API access remains at 100 queries per minute for OAuth clients and ten queries per minute for non-OAuth clients, covering 90% of apps.
  • Premium API access for higher usage will cost $0.24 per 1000 API calls, which amounts to under $1 per month for typical apps. However, some apps, like Apollo, have decided that this pricing doesn’t work for them.
  • Mod tools like RES (Reddit Enhancement Suite) and Toolbox will continue to have free API access, and Pushshift access will be restored for verified moderators.
  • Mod bots that provide free value to users will continue to have API access.
  • The Developer Platform beta offers tools for mod tools, games, and features.
  • Access to NSFW (Not Safe for Work) content via the API will be limited starting July 5 to provide “guardrails.”
  • Non-commercial accessibility apps will continue to have free API access.

Huffman acknowledged the frustrations of the moderators and expressed respect for the communities that took action to highlight their needs, including going private.

The challenges of Reddit moving forward with API changes

The Reddit boycott, triggered by the proposed changes to the Reddit API and the subsequent pricing model, revealed the profound interconnectedness of Reddit’s ecosystem and the potential problem with Reddit’s business strategy.

The exclusion of key stakeholders, such as third-party developers and community moderators, from decision-making processes poses a significant challenge to Reddit. It threatens the essence of Reddit as a democratic and accessible platform.

The demands made by moderators during the protest indicate an urgent need for Reddit to reevaluate its strategies concerning third-party apps and consider the viability of these apps and the communities they serve.

Despite assurances from Reddit’s CEO that most apps would not be affected and specific beneficial changes would be implemented, the widespread dissatisfaction and protest actions suggest a communication and trust gap between Reddit’s management and its user base.

This situation highlights the importance of transparent and inclusive decision-making in tech companies, particularly those providing community interaction platforms.

As Reddit navigates the challenges posed by these changes, it will need to carefully consider the interdependencies of its ecosystem. The future of Reddit will likely depend on its ability to strike a balance between commercial viability and preserving the democratic and open nature that has defined the platform.

Above all, this event underscores that community-driven platforms like Reddit are powered by more than just algorithms and APIs. They are powered by people, their needs, their creativity, and their desire for a shared digital space.