Changes are afoot at ‘the front page of the internet’, with a large number of reddit communities set to go dark for 48 hours. The period will see many large subreddits go private and become inaccessible  in protest to the proposed changes that will come into effect in July.

The controversial changes fuelling the blackout are due to proposed changes to the public facing API, the code third-party developers of apps, bots and tools for reddit, use to interact with the site.  Under the proposed changes, third-party developers will begin being charged for calls to the APi, which would see a dramatic increase in costs. 

The changes to the API were announced in April, however the real world effects were only highlighted by Christian Selig, developer of the iOS reddit app Apollo on a post on reddit earlier this month. In the post, Selig broke down the cost of maintaining the 7 billion requests Apllo made to the API last month, which under the proposed changes to the API, would cost him ‘about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year.’. – a cost which most small developers would be unable to maintain.

Since his initial reddit post, Selig has announced he will shut down Apollo on June 30th.

Since the announcement that Apollo will shut down, more reddit app developers have announced that they too will be shutting down including reddit is fun and Sync.

Some of the largest subreddits on the site including /r/funny, /r/pics, /r/food and morehave responded by posting an explanation of the changes, as well as their response to go dark on June 12th for 48 hours. 

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman posted a clarification post to try to clarify details of the proposed changes, however it appears reddit is standing fast when it comes to the incoming changes. Huffman has promised to keep working with third-party developers however the thread is full of users claiming to be third-party developers who have been trying to reach reddit through developer contact channels – and failed, with Huffman simply directing them to existing links to contact forms. 

The changes to the reddit API are suspected to be related to the rumoured IPO for reddit, which will see the company launch publicly. An easy way for reddit to increase revenue is to control the mobile experience, forcing users to their mobile app – which has been decried as hard to navigate and missing features, including subreddit moderation tools and accessibility features which some users rely on to access reddit. 

Huffman did offer some grace for apps focused on ‘non-commercial and focused on accessibility needs’, promising that reddit would review cases of continuing to access the Free Data API. 

At this stage many of the largest subreddits on the site have gone private already, or will begin on ‘June 12th’, so if you do login to reddit over the next few days and see some content missing, know you know why.