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Your favorite Reddit app might soon stop working

Changes to Reddit’s API might force developers to shut down their apps if they can’t pay tens of thousands of dollars in service fees.

Reddit app on phone
Image: KnowTechie

Some third-party apps for the social platform Reddit might soon stop working after the company made changes to a public interface that developers use to make their apps work. 

The change would impact apps like Apollo, which rely on Reddit’s application programming interface, or API, to function. 

For years, Reddit allowed third-party developers to tap into their public API to build just about anything, and the developers behind Apollo took advantage of this to build a slick smartphone app that serves as an alternative to Reddit’s own mobile app.

Apollo pushed to pay millions to connect users to Reddit

In April, executives at Reddit announced changes to their API that were largely seen as attempts to reign in developers who wanted to train artificial intelligence robots off the social platform’s content.

But a key developer behind Apollo said the changes would have another consequence: Third-party platforms will soon have to pay if they want to continue connecting their users to Reddit’s services.

Reddit app on phone
Image: Unsplash

A single user interaction can trigger a “call,” and Reddit intends to charge $12,000 per month for 50 million call requests.

Apollo has not disclosed user figures in mobile app usage, but Selig said users made a collective 7 billion call requests last month, which would have cost the company $1.7 million under Reddit’s new API pricing structure.

Assuming the same number of calls were made each month, Apollo said its bill would come out to over $20 million per year.

Reddit stands firm on new API pricing structure, prompting concerns

Selig said Reddit has been responsive to his concerns over the pricing, and calls with unnamed figures at the social media site was described as “communicative and civil.”

But he also said Reddit appears to be standing firm on its new price structure, which had not been previously reported.

“I don’t see how this pricing is anything based in reality, or remotely reasonable,” Selig said. “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.”

Even if every Apollo user paid $2.50 per month to use the app, Selig said the company would still not have enough money to pay what Reddit is demanding.

By comparison, he noted that Apollo currently shells out around $166 per month to the picture-sharing website Imgur for around 50 million call requests.

A spokesperson for Reddit didn’t deny the pricing tier outlined by Selig in his post, nor did they challenge his claim that the company appeared unwilling to be flexible on the coast.

Instead, the spokesperson told The Verge that Reddit would “work with third-party apps to help them improve efficiency,” which might presumably help them lower their costs.

It isn’t clear how Reddit will work with software developers to make their apps more “efficient,” but the move to charge third-party apps thousands of dollars for something that was once mostly free has left Apollo and other apps scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Selig said he isn’t entirely sure what the next step is — “this is going to require some thinking,” he wrote toward the end of his post.

Potential impact: app shutdowns and user exodus from Reddit

Apollo hasn’t said whether it will shut down as a result of Reddit’s high API prices.

But at least one other social media platform has proven that when developers have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to maintain their apps, shutting down is typically the only viable option.

Late last year, new Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk announced a plan to raise the price of its API, with developers shelling out $500,000 per year — or around $42,000 per month — for enterprise-level access to the interface.

twitter bookmark count with twitter logo
Image: KnowTechie

Once enacted, developers quickly said they were abandoning their apps because they couldn’t afford to pay that bill. Among the apps that shut down were Twitterrific, developed by Iconfactory, and Tweetbot, a popular app made by Tapbots.

The official Twitter app remains widely available, while third-party apps leveraging Twitter’s API offered simpler interfaces for casual users and advanced features for power users.

Third-party apps often have the power to show how good a platform or service can be and usually cultivate a dedicated following that can evaporate when a platform suddenly stops supporting those developers.

That could happen with Reddit as well: If Apollo and similar Reddit-based apps are forced to close, it could drive users away from the service entirely.

As of Thursday, Selig’s original post on Reddit has more than 10,000 comments  — and more than one person has affirmed that if the app has to shut down because it can’t pay Reddit’s API fees, they’re leaving Reddit for good.

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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