Reddit is unfortunately following in Elon Musk’s greedy footsteps and charging developers for access to the platform’s API, which is vital for running third-party tools. This comes shortly after Twitter banned third-party client apps and turned to aggressively monetizing API access.
Twitter seems to have set a precedent that will leave developers in the lurch. According to Slash Gear, developer of popular third-party Reddit app Apollo Christian Selig took to Reddit to discuss how the new API policy will cost him a staggering $20 million in fees annually based on current user engagement figures, which would quickly launch Apollo into serious financial trouble.
In Selig’s post, he explains that he’s had multiple calls with Reddit representatives that have yielded no positive response, and that while the communication was courteous, a big fat bill still awaits him regardless. Reddit is supposedly charging $12,000 for 50 million API requests, which may seem like a lot, but is actually a relatively small number for a platform like Reddit.
📣 Had a call with Reddit to discuss pricing. Bad news for third-party apps, their announced pricing is close to Twitter’s pricing, and Apollo would have to pay Reddit $20 million per year to keep running as-is. from r/apolloapp
This is a stick up!
At this point, Apollo had made 7 billion API requests, which would put the monthly amount owed to Reddit at $1.7 million and the annual free at roughly $20 million according to the app’s developer. Selig clarified in his post that even if he boots every non-paying Apollo user from the service, the average paying subscriber still makes 300 API requests on a daily basis.
In summary, developers like Selig have basically been put between a rock and a hard place, where the data they need to make their apps work is locked behind such steep paywalls that they could be forced to shut their apps down entirely. We saw this recently with Block Party on Twitter, which had to shut down due to CEO Elon Musk’s extortionate new API fees.
From the comments on Selig’s Reddit post, it looks like Apollo users might simply ditch Reddit entirely if the third-party client dies, very similar to how users flocked to Twitter alternatives like Mastodon or Bluesky amongst the flurry of changes following Musk’s takeover.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason why Reddit and Twitter are feeling murderous towards third-party apps. It’s possible that since the two platforms are goldmines of information for training AI models like ChatGPT, the emphasis may have shifted to not wanting to dish out that data for free.
Reddit founder and CEO Steven Huffman told the New York Times that “the Reddit corpus of data is really valuable” and the company doesn’t “need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free”.
It’s a shame to see a social media staple like Reddit follow Twitter down such a turbulent path, and the shift to paid APIs comes across as both anti-consumer and anti-innovation. Many users will lose the apps they rely on and have used for many years, and we’ll all miss out on new apps because developers simply can’t hold up to the ridiculous fees.