The version of Reddit we’ll see over the next few days could be a shell of itself. Hundreds of subreddits have pledged to go dark, with thousands more planning to follow.
The protests are over API changes that will force many third-party apps, such as Apollo and rif is fun for Reddit, to shut down. Frustration was already brewing in the community as developers began to react to the changes, but Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s response in recent days hasn’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 commentators. Many 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 appeared to have intentionally misconstrued a conversation the company had with Apollo developer Christian Selig, has said he has heard Huffman tell moderators that Selig tried to threaten the company on a phone call. However, Selig has posted a recording proving that the “threat” was cleared up as a misunderstanding while they were still in conversation.
Mods, developers and all have called Huffman and other managers “liars”, accusing them of ignoring big questions, even if they had the most upvotes, and only answering the simple ones. According to this post on r/ModCoord, the protest will end when Reddit addresses issues with the API that will keep third-party apps out, accessibility for the blind, and “parity in access to NSFW content.”
The biggest complaints are about how Reddit’s management has, or mostly hasn’t, communicated the details of API pricing changes or incoming restrictions, such as those that prohibit third-party apps from displaying NSFW content already visible on the site. ReddPlanet developer Tony Lupeski said it was a “blatant lie” that Reddit management kept the dialogue open with affected third-party developers, as Huffman wrote. “That’s not an answer and you know it,” user Anacharsis said to the same Huffman reply.
When moderator Merari01 asked why the site hadn’t made sure to vet the new changes with users and moderators, Huffman said the company “started sharing this information in April.” A few responses pointed out that the earlier announcement didn’t include any pricing information and left out details like the ban on third-party apps that display NSFW content.
One user pointed to a post on the r/History entry of times Reddit had broken its promises.
Since the AMA, some subreddits have escalated their response. Over on 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 last 48 hours. However, after a jealous AMA held by Reddit’s CEO, it has become clear to us that Reddit has no intention of acting in good faith. When the CEO is willing to lie and spread defamatory claims about another third-party developer, and then try double down by slandering them, again, in an AMA, despite being proven a liar by the developer through audio recordings, that’s when we knew what we were up against.
Many of the subreddits being shut down say they will do so for only 48 hours. But some are poised to shut down indefinitely, including r/Music, a standard 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 shut down starting June 12 “Until Reddit takes back their API policy change.”
r/iPhone, which has 3.8 million users, echoed r/Music’s stance, saying: “in the (somewhat unlikely) scenario that Reddit’s leadership has a change of direction that sees the reversal [of] the recent change in API policy, we will reopen the subreddit.” r/Gaming says the shutdown will begin on the 12th, and it will be set to private “for 48 hours or longer.”
At the time of publication, 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 that tracks the protesting subreddits, says over 200 have already done so.