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Erin Bensinger for The DEV Team

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#DEVDiscuss: Reddit's API Changes

Time for #DEVDiscuss — right here on DEV 😎

Inspired by the hot news topic of the week, tonight we're discussing...Reddit's API changes!

In case you missed it: Reddit has recently made changes to its API, including a decision to charge for API use over a certain limit. This update will cause various third party Reddit apps, including the very popular Apollo, to close down due to an inability to afford their operations. In response, the moderators of many Reddit communities have taken their subreddits private in protest.

DEV user @theaccordance had a unique, intriguing take on the whole situation:

The 2010s was a golden age in capital investment and the technology industry benefited significantly, enabling a lot of free resources as a draw to build audiences and engagement. However, the 2020s so far have proven to be more challenging. Money is no longer free and as a result, many companies are having to mature their business models to be more self-sustaining. This means reducing expenses and finding additional sources of revenue. Monetizing previously open APIs is an unfortunate intersection that addresses both needs. Expect less free beer on the internet as we progress through these tougher economic times.

So let's talk about it!


  • What do you think about Reddit's API changes?
  • Have your internet browsing habits been affected by the protests?
  • Do you think we'll continue to see changes in the "free" internet as the years progress?
  • Any other perspectives you'd like to share on this topic?

Top comments (14)

zonaidev profile image
Andrew Reese

I just read the Apollo dev’s breakdown last night and I think it’s really enlightening on the situation.

theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

I really appreciate you sharing this as it adds valuable context - and likely will have me amending my own post to reflect some good risk mitigation tactics that Christian Selig has undertaken now that this risk has realized for him.

I think the post also emphasizes the need to take emotions out of risk management, as various promises that were intended to assure fears went unfulfilled by Reddit.

flavius_the_0th profile image

Im just annoyed that my overly specific questions cannot be answered because someone asked them years ago

erinposting profile image
Erin Bensinger

lol right

Sloan, the sloth mascot
Comment deleted
luckierdodge profile image
Ryan D. Lewis

I've been bouncing a lot of ideas around in my head on the Reddit API stuff and the larger changes in the Silicon Valley/VC-backed tech macroenvironment, so let me just throw them out there as best I can:

  1. Much of the value of the web has been created by open APIs. In an attempt to capture that value by removing the "open" bit, I suspect most of these companies will find that much of it evaporates in their grasp.
  2. These companies have been running extremely loose ships for awhile now. The glut of hyper low-interest money sloshing around in that ecosystem chasing anything with a hint of potential returns has definitely enabled a lot of free beer for users, but has also enabled a lot of profit-free business models. These companies are now scrambling to actually run viable businesses, and I find it extremely difficult to muster sympathy for them.
  3. Something that has become increasingly obvious to me is that a lot of modern tech company's only path to profitability is monopoly, and I think that's a big problem.
  4. Reddit and Twitter are corporations, and they're free to change their product or business model however they see fit. But fundamentally, the users are a core part of their product. This is the double-edged sword of network effect. It creates a ton of value and lock-in, but it also binds you to the whims of your users. Your product fundamentally relies on a social contract. And so there's a large space of things that you can legally do, that will still erode the trust that is foundational to that social contract.
  5. The optimistic view here is that these companies are doing a fantastic job of making the case for Federated social media and open, interoperable protocols. To Joe's point in the original article, from a risk management standpoint it makes a lot more sense to build your business around something like e-mail than a proprietary messaging standard. Hopefully, people come to the same realization about social media writ-large and we see a flourishing Federated ecosystem as a result.
michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I've bee enjoying listening to the Waveform podcast talk about this one. As a very rare Reddit user, I found the timeline recap and thorough explanation really helpful:

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I've been listening to this while I work and this bit really stuck out to me.

They talk about the importance of the 99:1 rule (or 1% rule) and how Reddit has really pissed off many of their most dedicated community members — content creators, moderators, & power users — i.e. the 1% who make the site what it is for the other 99% of people who come there. And let's not forget that these folks are volunteers... they do it because they love the platform and community. Deeply upsetting the people that are core to your success seems like a really bad call from a community standpoint.

andrezosso profile image
André Zosso

Unfortunately, most websites are going to go down that path, whether we like it or not. It is a private entity and it has absolute power over large amounts of the internet content we post every day.
André Zosso
Informatique Genève

designergenes profile image
Jaden Nation

This Web 3.0 dream of being "ethical" slavemasters is going to bite back hard. Remember the XKCD about "your $300,000 cyber security setup was beaten by a $7 tire iron"? That's the only place this leads.

philipjohnbasile profile image
Philip John Basile


moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I'm really not good with emoji. What does that translate to?

marissab profile image
Marissa B

I think "crash and burn" like the meteor that nuked the dinos.

maharshi020 profile image

For every apollo there are ton of unscrupulous scrapers like chat gpt which has steal data from reddit and used for their own research. Collateral is always there but it is a worthy sacrifice.