Reddit’s unpopular decision to overhaul its API pricing in a move that forces third-party apps to shut down has taken a strange turn. In an AMA hosted today by Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, aka u/spez on the internet forum site, the executive doubled down on charges against the developer behind beloved third-party app Apollo. , which the company previously accused of operating inefficiently and not being a good “API” user.
Despite the community backlash — which includes a site-wide protest from thousands of communities known as subreddits — Huffman’s AMA confirmed that the company has no plans to revise its upcoming edits. of APIs. Additionally, Huffman continued his accusations against Apollo, calling developer Christian Selig “behaviour and communications” as being “everywhere” and saying he couldn’t see Reddit working with the developer any further.
Selig had been among the first to point out that Reddit’s new API pricing would effectively make it impossible to continue operating the Apollo app. He explained that under the new terms, it would cost him $20 million a year to do so — money the app doesn’t make. This week, Selig announced that the app’s last day would be June 30, before the July 1 implementation of the new API pricing.
Other third-party apps are also shutting down, including Sync, RIF, and Reddplant, to name a few.
But Huffman apparently has an ax to settle with Selig in particular, first accusing the developer of extortion, according to Selig’s lengthy post about the situation between him and Reddit.
According to Selig’s interpretation of the situation, he raised the question of why Reddit chose to change its API terms to decommission third-party apps rather than just buy them out, as the company did with Alien Blue (a former Reddit client she acquired in 2014). He said that if Apollo was costing Reddit $20 million a year, Reddit would have to write him a check to terminate the app. The remark does not sound like a serious request on his part. In fact, he clarified on the call, “…it’s mostly a joke.”
Rather, it comes across as a way to try to figure out why the company would make a move that is sure to generate ill will within its wider community. (As this is the case.)
A Reddit rep on a call with Selig, however, apparently initially interpreted his comment as a “threat,” Selig said. But on the call, they cleared up the misunderstanding and the contact apologized. Selig came with receipts – he recorded the call (which is legal where he is based in Canada).
But in a subsequent call with moderators, Huffman called that conversation about Selig “threatening” Reddit.
That stance hasn’t softened on Reddit’s side, Huffman clarified today.
In the AMA, one user asked Huffman to clarify, “what were you thinking with your attempt to discredit Apollo by claiming Christian was threatening and blackmailing you?”
The response was surprising. Unlike most companies, which try to soften their blows behind corporate PR talk, Huffman answered pretty clearly.
“His ‘joke’ is the least of our problems,” the CEO wrote. “His demeanor and communications with us have been all over the place – telling us one thing while saying something completely different on the outside; recording and disclosing a private phone call – to the point that I don’t know how we could possibly do business with him.
It’s a strange turn of events for Apollo, whose user-friendly, user-friendly design for iOS was showcased at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this week, ahead of Reddit’s API policy change that will now put it bankrupt.
Other top developers have thrown their support behind Selig following this debacle.
Sebastiaan de With, co-founder of Halide tweeted Thursday, calling Selig “one of the nicest guys in our indie app world,” and said Reddit management was lying, slandering, and defaming him. Others quote tweeted and accepted.
Unless Reddit’s board chooses to intervene, it doesn’t appear that Huffman cares much about the fallout from these decisions, site-wide protest or not.
In the AMA, he brushed off a number of questions, politely worded or not, from users upset about the API changes. These ranged from those questioning the model (why not a profit-sharing model like Epic is doing with Unreal?) and questions about compressed timeframe to broader questions about Reddit’s shift to being more focused on profits than on community involvement. (“We will continue to be profit driven until the profits come in,” the CEO replied. “Unlike some of the 3P apps, we are not profitable.”)
“Some apps, like Apollo, Reddit is Fun and Sync have decided that [API] pricing is not working for their businesses and will shut down before pricing takes effect,” Huffman explained. “For other applications, we will continue to talk. We recognize that the deadline we gave was tight; we are happy to engage with people who want to work with us.
In the comments, however, the ReddPlanet developer (u/lupeski, aka Tony Lupeski) said “that’s a blatant lie”, noting that he had tried multiple times to get in touch with Reddit about these changes. and that he had been ignored. Another independent app developer said they filed an Enterprise API access request three times and received no response.
As for the rest of the AMA, there’s not much more to report beyond what Reddit had already shared. The company is seemingly indifferent to the community’s reaction to its API changes and has no intention of delaying or reconsidering. It will still maintain its exclusion for a handful of accessibility-focused apps, as noted.
Huffman also clarified that while the NYT article positioned API pricing changes as a way to limit access to its forums, which have become a training ground for large language models (LLMs) , this is not the only reason for this decision. The company also spends “tens of millions of dollars” a year supporting the third-party app ecosystem, and that needed to be brought under control. (And it’s in “active discussion” with companies using Reddit as training data for their AIs).
The executive also noted that access to mature content will be restricted through its Data API starting July 5, 2023, as part of a broader effort to provide additional safeguards in a “more strict”, but explicit content was still allowed.
A preview of the AMA in a more readable format is available on r/Save3rdPartyApps, a community that has sprung up since the API changes were announced. The forum now has more than 50,000 members.