June 9, 2023

Written by

Chris Gonzales

For better or worse, I am a very frequent user of Reddit. I’m on there every single day. Whenever I’m sitting around feeling bored or waiting in line for coffee somewhere, I can always hop on and find something entertaining or informative to read. It’s practically the only form of social media I’m still active on.

And the way I do that? Always through a third-party app like Apollo or Narwhal. Both of those were chosen as the best Reddit app for iOS (in our opinion) at one time or another, and we still stand by those appraisals several years later. Speaking personally, these kinds of apps are the only way I interface with Reddit at all, and I’m far from the only one.

Which is why I’m sad to say that, in the wake of a recent announcement concerning big changes coming to the Reddit API — namely, the absurd amount of money the company wants to start charging developers for access — it’s looking increasingly like Reddit no longer wants third-party apps in their ecosystem. In fact, to my eyes they seem to be intentionally pricing other apps out of existence. (I’m no finance expert but I feel like the rumored IPO ties into all of this somehow.)

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What’s Going On?

You may have seen that a whole bunch of subreddit moderators this past week — including some of the biggest traffic-drivers on the entire site — have announced plans to black out their respective communities for 48 hours or more (in some cases indefinitely) in protest of the upcoming changes to the Reddit API. And as I write this, the developers of apps like Apollo, Narwhal, Sync for Android, Reddit is Fun (aka “RIF”), Relay, and ReddPlanet have all come forward to say they are going to (or are at least likely to) shut down at the end of June 2023, because the new API pricing is so exorbitantly high — to the tune of millions of dollars a year in some cases. I expect we’ll see similar announcements from other popular apps like BaconReader, Boost, et al.

Like I said, the people who run Reddit clearly want third-party apps gone — ostensibly in the hopes of driving traffic to their official app for ad revenue or whatever — because that pricing is WAY too high to be accidental, and the notice was far too short for any of the developers to cope with. If they were interested in a thriving third-party economy, they could easily make that pricing more reasonable, or force apps using the API to show the ads they want users to see, or any number of other things.

As a result of this, one of the unfortunate side effects is that a significant number of users who require robust accessibility features are about to lose the tools they need to engage with the Reddit platform:

This doesn’t only impact your ability to access Reddit in a fluid, customizable, and efficient way; many of us on the mod team are also blind, and we depend on those third party apps to make sure that this community remains a safe, fun, and productive place.  Unfortunately, new Reddit, and the official Reddit apps, just don’t provide us with the levels of accessibility we need in order to continue effectively running this community. As well, the Transcribers of Reddit, the many dedicated folks who volunteer to transcribe and describe thousands and thousands of images on Reddit, may also be unable to operate.


If this change to the Reddit API is not reversed, we are not convinced that we will be able to continue running the r/blind subreddit.

As mentioned there, this issue doesn’t only affect us everyday users. The moderators themselves — who are all unpaid volunteers, to my knowledge — are about to have a harder time doing their jobs (bold emphasis mine):

As moderators, we find ourselves at the intersection of Reddit’s management and its user base, striving to facilitate respectful and meaningful dialogues in our communities. The recent API pricing change is detrimental to our efforts in several ways.

Many of us rely on third-party apps to manage our communities effectively. Let’s just rip the band-aid right off: in many cases these apps offer superior mod tools, customization, streamlined interfaces, and other quality of life improvements that the official app does not offer. The potential loss of these services due to the pricing change would significantly impact our ability to moderate efficiently, thus negatively affecting the experience for users in our communities and for us as mods and users ourselves.

And let’s not forget how much of an information goldmine Reddit has been over the years. How often have you Googled for a solution to a problem, only to discover that a random person in a Reddit thread six years ago commented the exact thing you needed to know?

That status as a repository of knowledge could be in jeopardy, provided enough people leave the platform over this whole thing — which seems likely, given the amount of goodwill they’ve so quickly squandered. Just look at the comments under the ongoing “AMA” (and the so-far lack of any response from Reddit officials) to see what I mean.

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Your Next Steps

“What am I supposed to do with all of this information,” you ask? Well, that depends.

Option #1: Do nothing. If you’ve never heard of a third-party app (which is crazy to me, but I do know it’s a thing), then not a lot is likely to change for you personally — unless you count the coming drop-off of a significant portion of the Reddit userbase, made up of people who refuse to switch to the official Reddit app and will simply go elsewhere if their favorite client is forced to shut down.

Option #2: Delete your account. If that latter group is the one you relate to most, then it’s up to you to decide what happens to your Reddit account. You can simply let it sit unused while you wait for some reversal of these API changes down the line, or you can choose to delete it entirely, potentially after using a tool like Power Delete Suite to nuke your comment history.

Option #3: Get a refund. If you have paid (or are currently paying for) any kind of premium app subscription such as Apollo Ultra, you may choose to seek a refund on any subscription time you will lose out on if your app of choice becomes inactive. It’s worth considering however that a lot of third-party developers are about to lose a lot of money thanks to this whole debacle, so it could be worth letting them keep that payment as a form of thanks and support if it doesn’t hurt you too badly.

Option #4: Make Your Voice Heard. As subreddits across the site go dark on June 12th, you can join the protest by abstaining from Reddit entirely, and perhaps spread the word about what’s going on through other social media channels. There are also some ideas in this post:

Message the mods of r/reddit, who are the admins of the site: message u/reddit submit a support request: comment in relevant threads on r/reddit, such as this one, leave a negative review on their official iOS or Android app- and sign your username in support to this post.

I would also add that, if you pay for Reddit Premium, you can tell them in your support ticket that you will be canceling that subscription if these policies aren’t reversed.

Option #5: Seek Out Alternative Sites. There’s nothing I know of that can quite fill Reddit’s shoes at this point, but there are some places you can check out to get a bit of that same fix. Two that come to mind are Lemmy, a federated self-hosted forum (à la Mastodon, the decentralized Twitter alternative) and the more Reddit-esque Tildes.

Mix and match these options as desired.

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Will July 1st, 2023 be the day Reddit died? We’ll have to see. Speaking for myself, it seems likely that my usage of the site will go down to nearly nil. Without apps like Apollo and Narwhal at my disposal, I won’t have much interest visiting Reddit each day. I’ve tried using the offical app, and all I can say is, “No thank you.”

I truly hope that the high-ups at Reddit respond to all this backlash by walking back the API changes, or at least making them reasonable for third-party developers to handle. As it is, this looks like the sort of thing that could end Reddit as we know it, much like what happened to Digg all those years ago.