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Reddit CEO Steve Huffman hosted a promised AMA on Friday over the platform’s controversial API changes, but based on the tone of his initial message and some replies, it doesn’t seem like Reddit will be budging on potentially expensive API updates that have caused multiple developers to announce they will be shutting down their apps.
“On 4/18, we shared that we would update access to the API, including premium access for third parties who require additional capabilities and higher usage limits,” Huffman, who goes by u/spez on Reddit, wrote in the initial post for his AMA. “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 also responded to a Redditor asking about Christian Selig’s claim that Huffman told Reddit moderators the Apollo developer “threatened us” in an attempt to get Reddit to give him $10 million without entirely denying or confirming it. “His ‘joke’ is the least of our issues,” Huffman said. “His behavior and communications with us has been all over the place—saying one thing to us while saying something completely different externally; recording and leaking a private phone call—to the point where I don’t know how we could do business with him.” Selig, in a reply, asked Huffman to “give examples where I said something differently in public versus what I said to you.”
Over the past two weeks, Redditors have been outraged about the changes after Selig said Reddit might end up charging him $20 million per year. A few days after, major Reddit communities — including some of the most followed on the platform — announced that they would be going dark from June 12th to June 14th to protest the threat to third-party apps. But the API changes have otherwise remained in place for the vast majority of developers, with Selig and others, including the makers of rif is fun for Reddit and ReddPlanet for Reddit, announcing they would be shutting down their apps on June 30th.
In his AMA, Huffman seemed to shut the door on making amends with the apps that are closing their doors. “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,” Huffman said. “For the other apps, we will continue talking. We acknowledge that the timeline we gave was tight; we are happy to engage with folks who want to work with us.”
Based on what I’ve heard, that last sentence doesn’t ring entirely true. Tony Lupeski, the developer of ReddPlanet, tells The Verge that he has tried to contact Reddit three times since the initial announcement of changes but has been “ignored every time.” (Lupeski said something similar in a public reply to Huffman.) Selig says that the last time Reddit communicated with him “in any capacity” was a week ago and that Huffman had declined a request for a call (which he noted in his post about Apollo’s shutdown on Thursday).
A Redditor asked Huffman if it would be possible for the company to delay the API pricing by 90 days. Huffman’s response: “We’re continuing to work with folks who want to work with us. For what it’s worth, this includes many of the apps that haven’t been taking the spotlight this week.”
One Redditor asked why Reddit will no longer let explicit / NSFW content appear in third-party apps — a restriction that rif is fun for Reddit noted as one of the reasons it would be shutting down. “It’s a constant fight to keep this content at all,” Huffman wrote. “We are going to keep it. But the regulatory environment has gotten much stricter about adult content, and as a result we have to be strict / conservative about where it shows up.”
Reddit has given some small concessions: the r/Blind subreddit protested the changes because they could mean that accessibility-focused apps necessary to browse the site would have to shut down, and on June 7th, Reddit said those apps would be exempt from the pricing updates. During the AMA, Huffman also committed to making the official Reddit apps “more accessible.”
“We are still concerned about the selection and limitations imposed on exempt third-party apps”
But in a message to The Verge, r/Blind moderator MostlyBlindGamer wrote, “We are still concerned about the selection and limitations imposed on exempt third-party apps and about the financial pressure on the developers who must — to our best knowledge — effectively maintain them for free.” MostlyBlindGamer added, “I’m very disappointed that [Huffman] did not add any information to what we read on The Verge regarding accessibility, despite Reddit receiving multiple public and private requests for clarification.”
The developer of RedReader, one of the apps granted an exemption, said in a post, “I think it’s very reasonable to be concerned about Reddit’s current trajectory, and nobody can know for sure how long the exemption will last.”
Allison Husain, the maker of Dystopia, another app given an exemption, claims that Reddit clarified on a call that the impact of the changes on accessibility apps was unintended. “While you’ll just have to take my word for it, I really did get the impression that this was sincere,” Husain wrote in a post. In an email to The Verge, Husain noted that the agreement “doesn’t really have any particular guarantees on how long such an exemption will last” and that Reddit can withdraw from the agreement with 30 days’ notice “for no reason at all.”
The AMA is now over. Huffman ended up posting 14 comments, all of which received hundreds of downvotes. (The one asking about Selig’s claim has more than 2,000 downvotes.) Other Reddit admins posted seven comments of their own that were also heavily downvoted. A stickied comment has links to all of the posts. As of this writing, the AMA has more than 17,000 comments.
During the AMA, a Redditor asked how Huffman would address concerns that Reddit has become increasingly profit-driven. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” Huffman wrote. “Unlike some of the 3P [third-party] apps, we are not profitable.”
Update June 9th, 4:47PM ET: Added context from Dystopia’s developer and to note that the AMA is now done.
Update June 9th, 4:02PM ET: Added AMA reply from Tony Lupeski.
Update June 9th, 3:50PM ET: Added context from Christian Selig.
Update June 9th, 3:32PM ET: Added context from a moderator of r/Blind and the developers of two accessibility-focused apps.