Reddit may ask an app developer to pay $20 Million a year for API access - Is this the end of third-party apps?
Reddit may be on the verge of killing third-party apps that are used to access its service. The developer of the Apollo app says that social network has informed them it would cost $20 Million a year to continue using its API.
The issue came to light in April, but the company had promised that its API prices would be reasonable. Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo for Reddit app for iOS, had some calls with the website's representatives to sort out the future of his app. According to a post that he shared on his app's subreddit, it would cost $12,000 per 50 million API requests.
For context, an API request is an attempt to access Reddit, for example to sign in to your account, read a post, refresh the current page, etc. An average Apollo user makes about 344 requests per day or about 10,600 per month, which costs approximately $2.50 per month for a user. The developer says that his app has around 1.3 to 1.5 Million active users, and about 7000 of those users are moderators of various subreddits. The app also has around 20,000 subscribers in its paid plans. Selig says that Apollo made about 7 billion requests last month, so it would cost the developer a fee of around $1.7 Million a month, or $20 Million per year. In comparison, the popular image sharing service, Imgur, charges $166 for 50 Million API calls.
Reddit makes a lot of revenue from ads and by selling Reddit Premium subscriptions, these are reportedly in the range of $600 Million with about 430M active users (around $1.40 per year/user, and about $0.12/month). Selig called out Reddit for being unfair in its pricing, claiming that it costs 20 times more than what the site could be earning from a user. The post mentions July 1st as the last date as the deadline for accessing Reddit's API for free.
The developer of the Narwhal app also confirmed that they had a similar call with Reddit, and the pricing that they were informed of was in the same range, i.e. it would cost them $1 to $2 Million a year. They also said that the app could be dead in 30 days.
Selig says that he has been in touch with Reddit's team to discuss the future of his app, and that they are still working out a solution regarding the fee for accessing the API, as the proposed fee would not be affordable even if he charges more for subscriptions.
Is this the end of third-party apps for Reddit?
Greedy much, Reddit? Whose bright idea was this? I can't imagine how anyone could have thought that this was a reasonable fee to get from an app developer. This ridiculous fee is more of a way to tell third-party app developers to walk away, it does seem for all intents and purposes an unofficial ban on third-party apps. It is absurd that a website that is built on the backbone of users and moderators who work for free is resorting to predatory pricing. I'm not quite sure what else to say about this fiasco.
Let's look at the alternatives for users. If Reddit ends support for third-party clients, you will have two options to access the site, the website on desktop, and the official mobile app on Android and iOS. When you try browsing Reddit's mobile website, it tries to display a banner that asks you to use the mobile app. You could bypass this by using old.reddit.com, but I'm not sure how long that would be around.
Reddit's mobile app is atrocious, to say that it is ugly in an understatement. It's a convoluted mess that is riddled with ads that are quite often disguised like real posts, which make it difficult to navigate, let alone engage with comments. This is precisely why third-party apps are popular among mobile users, they are usually well-designed, have a clean interface that is customizable, and many of them offer an ad-free experience which is good for your privacy and the phone's battery life.
I'd say that in today's world, most of Reddit's traffic comes from smartphones than computers. If the company's financial plans are indeed accurate as reported, this wouldn't just spell an end for third-party apps, I think that Reddit would be shooting itself in the foot. There's a good chance that the site would lose the majority of its users, and could end up like Digg, a memory of the past.
There is a possibility that some third-party apps could allow users to use their own API, which would give us a way to continue using the apps for free, and without burdening the app developers. Then again, this entirely depends on whether Reddit would allow the free tier of the API to continue, you can read their latest statement here.
I have used various Reddit apps in the past from Reddit is Fun, Narwhal, Apollo, Sync, Boost, ReddPlanet, to name a few. All of these have provided an ad-free, and a highly polished experience to browse the site. There are dozens of open source Reddit apps whose developers have provided their services for free, I've notably been impressed with RedReader and Infinity. It's a real shame that these projects may come to an end because of soulless corporate greed.
Reddit has been a treasure trove of information for me for the past decade or so, not merely as a source of news. I've used it to learn new things like how to mod game consoles and other devices, engage with fans of games and sports, finding good deals on games and gadgets, to keep myself up-to-date with upcoming books, read interesting AMAs, etc. I spend well over an hour or two everyday browsing Reddit, but sometimes I simply scroll through the feed rather aimlessly. If Reddit were to kill third party apps, and possibly end support for the old design, I think it might actually be good for my productivity. I'm sure there are others who would feel the same way.
What would you do if Reddit ends support for third-party apps? Would you stop using Reddit? And if so, where will you go to?Advertisement