Reddit Rebellion: Why Thousands of Subreddits are Going Dark, Explained

More than 3,000 subreddits, including some of the largest communities on Reddit, are going 'dark' in a protest against the platform's decision to charge for data access, threatening the future of popular third-party apps

Reddit Rebellion: Why Thousands of Subreddits are Going Dark, Explained

Monday June 12, 2023,

3 min Read

In an unprecedented move, thousands of subreddits - the individual communities that form the mosaic of the social platform Reddit - have banded together in a collective act of defiance. At the heart of the rebellion is Reddit's recent decision to monetise access to its data, a move that has ignited widespread protests across the platform.

This digital uprising involves more than 3,000 subreddits - some of the platform's most populous communities. Titans like r/todayilearned, r/funny, and r/gaming, each boasting over 30 million subscribers, have pledged their support to the cause. Other subreddits, each home to over a million members, like r/iPhone and r/unexpected, have already bolted their doors in anticipation of the strike.

The spark that ignited this protest was a set of proposed changes to Reddit's API, the digital gateway that allows other companies to utilise Reddit's data within their own products and services. Under the new terms, heavy charges for 'premium access' would be instituted, threatening the viability of popular third-party Reddit applications like Apollo.

Apps such as Apollo, beloved for their customisable interface, would be forced to levy a fee of approximately $5 per user each month to simply cover the new costs imposed by Reddit. This scenario harkens back to a similar conflict that played out with Twitter in the 2010s, where the reliance on third-party apps eventually undercut the social network's ad-supported business model.

However, this Reddit rebellion has a unique twist. It's not merely about third-party apps. The struggle is also between Reddit and AI giants like OpenAI, companies that have mined Reddit's expansive data to train their sophisticated systems. Reddit's CEO, Steve Huffman, has voiced his stance that while Reddit's data is a treasure trove of value, it shouldn't be handed out to the world's largest corporations without cost.

June 12th has been marked as the day of protest, with many subreddits choosing to go 'dark' - becoming private and inaccessible to outsiders. Some communities plan to return after a 48-hour blackout, while others threaten permanent closure unless the issue is resolved satisfactorily.

The stakes are high for Reddit's protesting moderators. They express frustration with the limited tools provided by the official app and fear that the impending changes could render their roles unmanageable. As they stand on the precipice of this protest, they do so out of love for Reddit and the communities they have helped build. This isn't a decision taken lightly. It's a desperate call to protect the spirit of Reddit and its future.