Reddit API Changes: CEO Steve Huffman Slams Moderators as Blackout Continues

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Reddit Steve Huffman moderators

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has hit back at moderators protesting the company’s decision to charge for access to its API, accusing them of not representing the forum’s wider community. 

In an interview with NBC, Huffman compared Reddit moderators – who spend hundreds of hours building and maintaining the forum’s subreddits and apps – to the “landed gentry,” or wealthy people owning large amounts of land. 

“If you’re a politician or a business owner, you are accountable to your constituents. So a politician needs to be elected, and a business owner can be fired by its shareholders,” he said. 

“I think, on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic.”

A week of chaos

The CEO’s comments follow a week of chaos on the online forum, which has faced a moderator-led blackout with subreddits being taken private indefinitely.

Moderators are revolting against the company’s decision to charge for its API, with app developers warning that Reddit’s new prices for API access would make their apps unsustainable. 

Until now, API access, which allows a third-party app to communicate with a website, has been free, allowing moderators to create, maintain and monetize applications and subreddits freely.

But Reddit wants large subreddits to pay for APIs, proposing charges of $0.24 per 1,000 API calls, which could cost some of the largest subreddits on the platforms millions of dollars yearly.

Regardless, Huffman has stood by these charges throughout the blackout. He told users in an Ask Me Anything session that Apps using less than 100 requests per minute through the OAuth client ID will be able to use the API free of charge. 

According to the CEO, over 90 per cent of the subreddits available today fall into this category. But hugely popular subreddits at the forefront of the revolt could still be charged up millions under the current plans. 

‘Democratising’ Reddit

As well as standing his ground on API charges, the Reddit chief called for “more democracy,” on the platform, claiming that large communities had an old-fashioned and “legacy” way of making decisions that Reddit needed to “work our way out of.”

“The protests, now or in the future, are actually representative of their communities. And I think that may have been the case for many at the beginning of this week, but that’s less and less the case as time goes on,” Huffman said. 

It comes as Reddit warns it may be forced to remove moderators who have taken their subreddits offline indefinitely. 

On Wednesday, moderators at r/ModCoord announced that more than 300 subreddits, including huge communities like r/aww, r/music, r/videos, and r/futurology, would be joining an “indefinite blackout” until Reddit listened to their demands, which include bringing down the cost of API pricing.

A Reddit administrator said the company had a duty to ensure such communities remain online because they are relied upon by millions of users of the platform. 

“If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users,” the Reddit administrator said on Thursday evening.

“If there is no consensus, but at least one mod who wants to keep the community going, we will respect their decisions and remove those who no longer want to moderate from the mod team.”

To read more about API access, visit our dedicated Data Management Page.

In his interview with NBC, Huffman didn’t elaborate on when this “democratic” Reddit would be implemented but believes subreddits might end their protests voluntarily without the company needing to step in.

“I think most will get there through their own natural decision-making process, and so we’re letting that play out,” he said.

As of Friday afternoon, 4,873 subreddits were still private, according to Reddark, which is tracking the communities taking part in the protest.

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