The version of Reddit we’ll see over the next few days may be a shell of itself. Hundreds of subreddits have pledged to go dark, with thousands more planning to follow.
The protests are happening over API changes that will force many third-party apps, like Apollo and rif is fun for Reddit, to shut down. Frustration was already brewing in the community as developers began reacting to the changes, but Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s responses in recent days haven’t calmed things down.
In a Reddit AMA on Friday, Huffman was met with seemingly universal anger. There were a lot of f-bombs from commenters. A lot of people called him a coward. If there are positive comments, I didn’t find them.
Before r/Videos went private today, its mods wrote that Huffman’s AMA performance was “a collage of inappropriate responses” and that Reddit’s CEO seemed to have intentionally misconstrued a conversation the company had with Apollo developer Christian Selig has said he’s heard that Huffman told moderators that Selig attempted to threaten the company on a phone call. However, Selig has posted a recording proving the “threat” was cleared up as a misunderstanding while they were still on the call.
Mods, developers, and have all said Huffman and other leaders are “liars,” accusing them of ignoring big questions, even though they had the most upvotes, and only answering the easy ones. According to this post on r/ModCoord, the protest will end when Reddit addresses issues with the API that will keep out third-party apps, accessibility for blind people, and “parity in access to NSFW content.”
The biggest complaints are about how Reddit’s leadership has, or mostly hasn’t, communicated the details of changes to its API pricing or incoming restrictions, such as those prohibiting third-party apps from showing NSFW content that’s already viewable on the site. ReddPlanet developer Tony Lupeski said it was a “blatant lie” that Reddit leadership was keeping dialogue open with impacted third-party developers, as Huffman wrote. “That’s not an answer and you know it,” said user Anacharsis to the same Huffman reply.
When moderator Merari01 asked why the site hadn’t made sure to probe the new changes with users and moderators, Huffman said the company “started sharing this information in April.” A few responses pointed out the earlier announcement didn’t include any pricing information and left out details like the ban on third-party apps showing NSFW content.
One user pointed to a post on r/History listing times Reddit had reneged on promises.
Since the AMA, some subreddits have escalated their response. Over at r/iPhone, the moderators posted early this morning that their original plan was to go dark for just 48 hours, but Huffman’s behavior changed their minds:
Originally, the protest was planned to be 48 hours. However, after a shambolic AMA held by Reddit’s CEO, it has become clear to us that Reddit doesn’t intend to act in good faith. When the CEO is willing to lie and spread libellous claims about another third-party developer, and then try double down by vilifying them, again, in an AMA, despite being proven as a liar by the developer through audio recordings, that’s when we knew what we were up against.
Many of the subreddits shutting down say they will do so for just 48 hours. But some are ready to shut down indefinitely, including r/Music, a default subscription for new accounts and one of the largest subreddits on the site. Mods of that community put it right in the title of the post announcing its participation, which says it will close starting June 12th “Until Reddit Takes Back Their API Policy Change.”
r/iPhone, which has 3.8 million users, echoed r/Music’s sentiment, saying, “in the (somewhat unlikely) scenario that Reddit’s leadership has a change of direction that sees the reversal [of] the recent API policy change, we will reopen the subreddit.” r/Gaming says its shutdown will begin on the 12th, and it will be set to private “for 48 hours or longer.”
At the time of publishing, a pinned bot post on the r/ModCoord sub’s post about the protest says nearly 4,500 communities are pledging to go dark, while Reddark, a site tracking the protesting subreddits, says over 200 already have.