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Apollo will shut down as tempers flare over Reddit API changes

Reddit isn’t budging from a plan to charge tens of thousands of dollars for access to its API, and now one major Reddit client says he’s done.

Reddit app on phone

Apollo, an independent Reddit mobile app with extra features, will shut down on June 30 due to the social network’s decision to charge developers tens of thousands of dollars.

The plans are connected to Reddit’s application programming interface, or API, which is software that third-party developers need to access in order to integrate their apps with Reddit’s platform.

For years, Reddit has allowed app developers mostly unfettered access to their API but decided earlier this year to begin charging developers after expressing concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) tools were improperly using Reddit’s API to their own benefit.

In an interview with the New York Times published in April, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said big AI companies were leveraging the social platform’s data to better train their tools and that Reddit [doesn’t] need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free.”

Reddit’s new API pricing

MetricApp 1App 2
Daily active users (DAU)1,0001,000
Server calls / DAU100345
Total server calls per day100,000345,000
Cost per 1k server calls$0.24$0.24
Total annual cost$8,760$30,222
Monthly cost per user$0.73$2.52

So, Reddit decided to start charging for access to its API. And that is where things get messy because the price that Reddit settled on could force independent developers to pay tens of thousands of dollars simply to keep their apps running.

Such is the case with Apollo, whose lead developer warned that, based on how much the app is used, he would be on the hook for just under $2 million per month under Reddit’s new pricing structure

“I don’t see how this pricing is anything based in reality, or remotely reasonable,” the developer, Christian Selig, said in a post on — where else? — Reddit. “I hope it goes without saying that I don’t have that kind of money, or would even know how to charge it to a credit card.”

In a Reddit question-and-answer session on Friday, Huffman dismissed that problem as one that the social platform is not overly concerned with. 

“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” Huffman said. He continued: “Some apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync have decided this pricing doesn’t work for their businesses and will close before pricing goes into effect.”

His took exceptional issue with Apollo and Selig, claiming the developer recorded and leaked a private phone call involving Reddit staff. He tried to extort the company for $10 million before going public with his concerns over the platform’s API fees.

“I don’t know how we could do business with him,” Huffman said.

Reddit won’t have to do business with Apollo for much longer: This week, Selig affirmed the app would shut down for good on June 30.

“Reddit’s recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue,” Selig wrote on Twitter. In a separate Reddit post, he wrote: “Going from a free API for 8 years to suddenly incurring massive costs is not something I can feasibly make work with only 30 days. That’s a lot of users to migrate, plans to create, things to test, and to get through app review, and it’s just not economically feasible. It’s much cheaper for me to simply shut down.”

Moderators of various Reddit communities are furious about the changes. Many have banded together to “go dark” on the platform this coming Monday.

This will see public communities go private, effectively locking out everyone except members who join before the blackout.

Some communities say they will go dark for 48 hours, while others say they intend to remain fenced off until Reddit walks back its proposed API changes that can harm developers like Selig.

Community moderators say they will be particularly impacted by the API changes because it could force some automated tools that enforce rules and keep decorum in their groups to stop working.

Reddit desktop
Image: Unsplash

That could tax already-overworked volunteer moderators of some of the largest communities on Reddit.

“Many subreddit moderators depend on tools only available outside the official app to keep their communities on-topic and spam-free,” a Reddit user named TopTomCat wrote earlier this month.

Huffman said Reddit is committed to working with developers who have expressed an interest in continuing their integration with the platform.

“We acknowledge that the timeline we gave was tight,” he said. “We are happy to engage with folks who want to work with us.”

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matthew Keys is an award-winning freelance journalist who covers the intersection of media, technology and journalism. He is the publisher of TheDesk.net and a contributor to KnowTechie, StreamTV Insider (formerly Fierce Video) and Digital Content Next. Matthew is based in Northern California.

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