Reddit’s move to a paid API has already started causing problems for its users. On Monday, as over 7,000 subreddits went private or read-only to protest the platform’s API pricing term changes, Reddit also faced an outage. The platform says the outage was caused by expected stability issues due to all the subreddits going private at the same time.
Issues started on the morning of June 12 as the platform’s status page reported a “major outage” affecting the desktop and mobile sites as well as its native mobile apps. The company responded to the outage at 10:58 AM ET and reported improvements across the site at 11:47 AM ET expecting the issue to recover for most users. Finally, the outage was fully restored by 1:28 PM ET. During this period, DownDetector totalled nearly 43,000 outage reports from the site’s users, a number that has fallen significantly since.
The API protest in question here has been triggered by Reddit changing its API pricing terms. Developers have reported that their apps would cost millions to run annually based on the new pricing changes. Christian Selig, developer of popular Reddit iOS app Apollo said that it would cost him nearly $20 million per year to continue operating his app as Reddit changes its API pricing to $12,000 for every 50 million requests.
Currently, Selig’s app is free to use with two paid options — a one-time subscription called Apollo Pro costing $4.99 that unlocks several features and another subscription called Apollo Ultra costing $1.49 per month or $12.99 per year.
The Apollo app averages 344 user requests daily or roughly 10,600 per month. This means that the pricing for Apollo for the average user would cost $2.50, “20 times higher than a generous estimate of what each user brings Reddit in revenue”. The developer goes on to note that even if he were to only keep users that pay for an Apollo subscription, the revenue from the app still wouldn’t be enough to earn a profit.
Reddit’s sudden and steep rise in API prices resembles that of Twitter, which faced a similar backlash for raising the API cost to $42,000 for 50 million tweets. Selig also mentioned Imgur’s API cost for context, which runs him $166 for the same 50 million API calls despite Imgur being “similar to Reddit in user base and media”.
API pricing isn’t the only thing that has been changed on Reddit recently either. Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt told The Verge that an experiment preventing users from logging in to the platform’s mobile website and forcing them to use the mobile app instead has also been conducted. The experiment was initially announced by a Reddit admin in May after one Redditor complained of not being able to log into the mobile site.