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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (6730)6/17/2023 5:01:08 PM
From: Glenn Petersen  Respond to of 6761
The Reddit Blackout Is Breaking Reddit

When the user revolt ends—if it ever does—Reddit’s community won’t ever be the same.

Boone Ashworth
June 17,


IT’S PRETTY EASY to piss people off on Reddit. Less so to piss off seemingly everyone on the platform.

Still, Reddit’s management has succeeded in doing just that as it weathers protests over its decision to charge for access to its API. That ruling risks putting the company in a death spiral as users revolt, the most dedicated community caretakers quit, and the vibrant discussions move to other platforms.

The company’s changes to its data access policies effectively price out third-party developers who make mobile applications for browsing Reddit; two of the most popular options, Reddit Is Fun and Apollo, which together have over 41 million downloads, are both shutting down. After some initial backlash from users and disability advocates who said Reddit’s changes would adversely affect accessibility-focused apps aimed at people with dyslexia or vision impairments, Reddit said it would exempt those apps from the price hikes. Those apps also have far smaller user bases than Apollo or RIF.

Reddit’s plans—driven by an urge to make the company more profitable as it inches toward going public—sparked a protest across nearly 9,000 subreddits, where moderators of those communities switched their groups to private mode, preventing anyone from accessing them. Many of those subs remain inaccessible four days later, and their moderators say they plan to keep up the blackout indefinitely. (Disclosure: WIRED is a publication of Conde Nast, whose parent company, Advance Publications, has an ownership stake in Reddit.)

However unfazed Reddit execs appear to be, this subreddit seppuku sure does seem like a surefire way to sink the company. But does it really signal the death of Reddit?

“I can't see it as anything but that,” says Rory Mir, an associate director of community organizing at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Earlier this week, Mir wrote about what Reddit got wrong.) “Like with Twitter, it's not a big collapse when a social media website starts to die, but it is a slow attrition unless they change their course. The longer they stay in their position, the more loss of users and content they’re going to face.”

The unrest at Reddit is the latest in a string of social media upheavals that have seemingly pitted profit-hungry companies against their users. Platforms like Reddit, Twitter, or even Amazon that started operating at a loss in order to grow their user base eventually face pressures to further monetize their traffic. When a site sidelines the wants and needs of its users in the pursuit of profit, that leads to a downturn—and potential death of the platform—that author Cory Doctorow has termed “ enshittification.”

“Any plan that involves endless and continuous growth is bound to run into scale issues, which is where I think Reddit and Twitter are running into problems,” Mir says. “You can’t inflate the balloon forever. It will pop at some point.”

Amy Bruckman is a regents' professor and senior associate chair at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing. She has also contributed to WIRED and is a moderator of several subreddits, including the very popular r/science, which is restricted until Monday. Bruckman says this era of social media has been rife with sudden changes. “There was an extended period of years, maybe even a decade, where it felt like the way things are is the way they always will be,” she says. “And everything is suddenly shifted.”

Reddit charging for access to its API is also about more than just third-party clients, Bruckman says. A move like this has angered so many people on Reddit because it feels like a betrayal of the community’s trust. It might be a vocal minority of users who are pissed off about the changes, but they’re the people who volunteer their time to keep communities functional—and they’re arguably the most important users on the site.

“Beyond the fact that it’s in a dozen ways harder to do our job, it’s also just the case that Reddit felt more like an open platform where innovation by committed users was encouraged,” Bruckman says. “And this feels like it's trampling on that.”

Reddit has denied that it is specifically targeting third-party apps like Apollo and RIF. The company initially said that limiting its API access is a move meant to control the flow of data being gobbled up by generative artificial intelligence companies like OpenAI training their large language models. But in an interview with NPR, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said limiting third-party access will also help Reddit keep control over how it displays ads—the company’s primary source of income—to users. Force everyone to interact on one app, and it’s easier to fill their feeds with whatever advertising you want.

“They’re shooting themselves in the foot,” Mir says. “The content of the users is what makes the platform worth visiting. These hosts kind of run into this confusion that their hosting is the reason people are going there, but it’s really for the other users on the medium.”

And those users are bailing. Bruckman says she knows a moderator who has already quit, saying it wasn’t worth the energy to devote so much time to a company that can just toss all that effort aside. Like with Twitter, no clear alternative has emerged as a replacement. Bruckman advocates for public funding of a nonprofit version of something akin to Reddit. Some more casual users say they’re going back to Tumblr, which is still recovering from its own corporate sanitization in 2018.

Still, Mir says, there’s a real hunger for stability on a platform. It’s part of the reason sites like Reddit and Twitter have gotten so big. There are people who have had the same email address for 30 years or the same username on Reddit for a decade. If users have invested significant time in a community, it’s going to be a pain to find something amid the sea of federated upstarts that all claim to be the next best thing.

Clearly, Reddit is hoping that inertia and customer loyalty keep people on its site. Even if users grumble about losing their favorite app, the company is expecting they’ll just cave and download the official app. That may work on your typical user, but it’s not going to be as easy to convert the mods—especially ones who feel burned by Reddit’s monetary machinations.

Mir offers another business metaphor for the tension on Reddit: “If you have a really good music venue, but you break relations with every notable artist, you’re not going to be a very successful venue. You need to really prioritize the needs of the folks providing the value on your platform.”

The Reddit Blackout Is Breaking Reddit | WIRED\

To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (6730)6/17/2023 5:06:47 PM
From: Ron  Read Replies (1) | Respond to of 6761
-- influential volunteer moderators who manage the communities that make up the site walled off large parts of Reddit, making them inaccessible to most users as part of their demonstration.

Noticed that earlier on Reddit. This is going to be interesting.