Reddit says it will update its newly revised API terms to carve out an exception for accessibility apps, which allow users, including people who are blind or visually impaired, a way to browse and use Reddit. The carve-out comes after Reddit announced new API terms that would put most third-party app developers out of business, as they could no longer afford the high fees that come with the new pricing. One developer of the popular Reddit app Apollo, for example, said it would cost him $20 million per year to continue running his business — money the app doesn’t make. As backlash over the changes ensued, several Reddit communities said they would go dark in protest of Reddit’s new policy.
The news of the exception to Reddit’s API pricing was first reported by The Verge, citing comments from Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt.
In a statement also shared with TechCrunch, Rathschmidt said Reddit has “connected with select developers of non-commercial apps that address accessibility needs and offered them exemptions from our large-scale pricing terms.”
The announcement follows the news of the planned protest across Reddit, which includes support from community moderators like those in the /Blind subreddit, who have stressed that Reddit’s new terms would impact apps they use to be able to access the site, like Reddit for Blind and Luna for Reddit and other screen readers. They said they would participate in the protest for 48 hours from June 12th to June 14th, as a result of Reddit’s changes. Other top subreddits are also participating, including r/aww, r/videos, r/Futurology, r/LifeHacks, r/bestof, r/gaming, r/Music, r/Pics, r/todayilearned, r/art, r/DIY, r/gadgets, r/sports, r/mildlyinteresting and many others. Several of these communities are in the double-digit millions in terms of size.
After The Verge published the article noting the new exception would be made for accessible apps, a /Blind moderator, MostlyBlindGamer, shared that they’ve received no clarification from Reddit about how they’re defining “accessibility-focused apps” or any process around having apps qualify under the new guidelines.
“We have strong concerns that Reddit lacks expertise to consider the varying access needs of the blind and visually impaired community,” MostlyBlindGamer wrote, adding they had also reached out to Reddit for further comment. They also noted that, over the past three years, r/blind and another moderator, u/rumster, had reached out to Reddit repeatedly over accessibility concerns and had “received no substantive response.”
The r/Blind community is now organizing a list of apps that would qualify for an exception under the new exception, which includes screen readers Reddit for Blind, Luna for Reddit, Dystopia, BaconReader, but also other general-purpose apps that take advantage of iOS accessibility APIs or add accessible features, like the ability to adjust the text size, contrast, color and more.
This list includes Apollo, one of the most popular Reddit clients, which the list says “works with most iOS accessibility technology, unlike the official app.”
However, we understand Reddit will not likely consider general-purpose apps like Apollo for exemption and will only focus on apps designed to address accessibility needs.
Until now, Reddit has held firm to its new API pricing, with no exceptions. Over the past weekend, a Reddit employee discussing the changes in the r/redditdev community accused Apollo of being “less efficient than its peers and at times has been excessive –probably because it has been free to do so.” Apollo developer Christian Selig asked for clarity over the inefficiencies — was the app inefficient or “just being used more?,” he wanted to know. He did not receive a direct response.
Reddit has previously stressed the need for the new pricing, as spokesperson Rathschmidt said that “access to data has impact and costs involved, and in terms of safety and privacy we have an obligation to our communities to be responsible stewards of data,” and that the intention was not to “kill” third-party apps.