Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
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As June started an article spread like wildfire in the technical communities and it was this thread on 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."

The title basically summarizes this issue, but we need to turn back the clock to understand what Apollo is and why this spread quickly.

In 2012 I joined Reddit and back then we can see that Reddit didn't have an official mobile application. If you remember years based on the Android version this was around the time of Ice Cream Sandwich or Jellybean. So if you were an addicted user of the site a decade ago - you found an unofficial 3rd party application.

In my personal experience, I was in Kansas at the time and had met a local company known as OneLouder while interning around in high school. They had a pretty cool weather application known as 1Weather which eventually lead me to other applications by the company which was BaconReader.


So I found myself with BaconReader and a $2 donation to remove ads and this is how I browsed Reddit over the last decade. It was a sweet application as it had a minimal interface and support for multiple accounts.

As years went on - something interesting happened. Reddit actually acquired one of the 3rd party applications known as Alien Blue in 2014. This reminded me what happens anytime a business acquires a competitor - it slowly over 2 years abandoned the application and then removed it from the store launching their own official applications in 2016.

The official application from someone who tried it - just wasn't my cup of tea. This application was clearly built for metrics, conversions and ads which was a complete alternative than what the 3rd party applications were built for.

It seemed like a problem was brewing - the 3rd party applications didn't have ads and could even gate payment access to their unofficial application. I was more willing to pay $2 to a 3rd party company for a better polished application than use the official application.

However, lets be real. I am the minority, most people browsing Reddit have no idea what an API even is nor the difference between a 3rd party application and official one. If we look at BaconReader vs the official application in terms of downloads - this tells that story.

  • BaconReader - 1 million+ downloads, 4.3 stars (107k reviews)
  • Official - 10 million+ downloads, 3.8 stars (2.86mil reviews)

So if we bring things back to the present why is Apollo facing a $20 million yearly bill for an assumed less popular unofficial application? Apollo must be more popular than the comparison of BaconReader above, which must be why that post garnered 164,000 up-votes.

The comments here in that post really told a story, so here is some summaries:

  • The same API used for 3rd party applications is used for many bots that moderate subreddits.
  • Unofficial applications take accessibility more seriously than official app.
  • API pricing doesn't seem reasonable and rivals Twitter's $42,000/month fee.

8 days later from that post a bombshell dropped: "Apollo will close down on June 30th. Reddit’s recent decisions and actions have unfortunately made it impossible for Apollo to continue. Thank you so, so much for all the support over the years."

This post was a bit insane to read. The creator of Apollo had recorded calls, transcripts and more of these discussions with Reddit to help prove his side of the story.

This post exploded further than the last and went to 215,000 up-votes. While this was spreading Reddit intervened and scheduled an AMA (Ask Me Anything) for the next day. This in my eyes was either a chance to rollback some changes or double down.

The AMA was an absolute mess to read, which even resulted to attacking the author of Apollo who spawned all this drama.

His “joke” is the least of our issues. His behavior and communications with us has been all over the place—saying one thing to us while saying something completely different externally; recording and leaking a private phone call—to the point where I don’t know how we could do business with him.

It didn't take more than an hour for the accused to respond and say:

Please feel free to give examples where I said something differently in public versus what I said to you. I give you full permission.

So boy after reading this I felt like the Reddit I enjoyed using was coming to an end. They doubled down and made little changes, but did promise to make exceptions for moderating tools and non-profit applications.

I think its clear what happened here and it has nothing to do with 3rd party applications. The AI movement is growing and all these models are being trained on publicly accessible data. Reddit is mad that all these successful highly funded ventures were built from some of their data for free.

Data though could be its own blog post. If you look at Reddit - its the community that creates content, up-votes content and moderates it. Reddit admins steps in when their rules are broken, but for the most part the community keeps Reddit content growing and moderated. Maybe at some point in the far future data is connected to the human and the human decides how it can be shared, but we are no where near that at the moment.

Companies who pulled data from Reddit to train models are faced with a new problem - pay a heavy bill or get their data from elsewhere. However, Reddit is doing that at the cost of blowing out millions who prefer an alternative approach to browsing the site.

Old Reddit

I still use the "old" version of Reddit when browsing the website. I just can't find myself ever using the new interface which is heavy on ads and recommended content.

New Reddit

Turns out I am not alone in some of this thinking and communities decide to turn their communities private on June 12, 2023 in a protest. This resulted in the following outcome from this source:

  • 622 million submissions went private.
  • 7.4 billion comments went private.
  • 8,830 subreddits went private.

This meant if you wanted to view any of that information from a linked article or Google search you were left with a nasty error page on that day. Probably such a temporary blip that will do no real damage, but the fallout is still happening. Quite amazing to think that humans self-organized to take down over 600 million posts of content temporarily.

Some subreddits are refusing to re-open and Reddit is getting angry coming out with posts like:

If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users. If there is no consensus, but at least one mod wants to keep the community going, we will respect their decisions and remove those who no longer want to moderate from the mod team.

So what I end up seeing occurring:

  • Reddit removes moderators who are taking a stand.
  • New staff or other moderators are added who don't fit the vision of the original community.
  • The community collapses and moves elsewhere.

Alternatively, I also see this approach.

  • Reddit removes moderators who are taking a stand.
  • Reddit assigns corporations and companies to the respective domains, ie Apple for /apple.
  • Corporations moderate for brand image and take away the aspect of Reddit that allowed raw thoughts about a company.
  • The community collapses and moves elsewhere.

Finally, I also see this approach.

  • Reddit removes moderators who are taking a stand.
  • Corporations employ AI to moderate subreddits.
  • AI posts and moderates which causes a loop of AI being trained by AI and original thoughts start disappearing.
  • The community collapses and moves elsewhere.

All things change in time and things I like slowly become something I hate isn't new. Corporations want to go public or please shareholders and the things that made the company wonderful collapses. Companies continue to push for growth on growth at the expense of destroying itself and allowing a new company to sweep in.


Much like Digg collapsed when version 4 was released - we may look back at this at the moment Reddit started its downfall. I imagine July 1st, 2023 will be my last day on Reddit and I'm sad for that. The little communities allowed me to follow competitive Halo, Ingress, Laravel and much more.

I'll find a new home, much like I did when Digg went south.

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