Thousands of Reddit discussion forums have “gone dark” — temporarily closing their virtual doors — for what’s planned as a two-day protest over the company’s move to charge third-party apps for API access to the site.

More than 6,500 subreddits as of Monday morning have gone dark, according to Reddark, a site that’s tracking the shutdowns. Those joining in the blackout include some of the most popular subreddits on the site, including r/funny, r/science, r/gaming, r/aww, r/Music, r/todayilearned and r/pics.

“/r/Funny has gone private as part of the coordinated protest against Reddit’s exorbitant new API pricing,” says a notice on the forum’s landing page. “This community has shut down and will not grant access requests during the protest.”

What kicked off the backlash: On April 18, Reddit announced it would start charging for access to its application programming interface (API) for third parties that “additional capabilities, higher usage limits, and broader usage rights.” The new pricing is supposed to go into effect July 1, 2023. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, in a post Friday, acknowledged “frustration” among many moderators about the policy change. But, he said, “Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use.”

Some app developers say they’ll be forced to shut down because of Reddit’s move to monetize API access. Christian Selig, developer of Reddit client app Apollo, said Reddit’s new pricing would cost him as much as $20 million per year — and that therefore Apollo expects to shut down on June 30.

The moderators and users who are protesting Reddit’s decision to charge for API access say the change will have an adverse impact on their communities.

“Reddit relies on volunteer moderators to keep its platform welcoming and free of objectionable material. It also relies on uncompensated contributors to populate its numerous communities with content,” says a post on r/Jokes (which hasn’t gone dark itself) about the blackout. The API decision “promises to adversely impact both groups: Without effective tools (which Reddit has frequently promised and then failed to deliver), moderators cannot combat spammers, bad actors or the entities who enable either, and without the freedom to choose how and where they access Reddit, many contributors will simply leave… The very elements which differentiate Reddit – the foundations that draw its audience – will be eliminated, reducing the site to another dead cog in the Ennui Engine.”

According to the notice on r/Jokes, “We implore Reddit to listen to its moderators, its contributors, and its everyday users; to the people whose activity has allowed the platform to exist at all: Do not sacrifice long-term viability for the sake of a short-lived illusion. Do not tacitly enable bad actors by working against your volunteers. Do not posture for your looming IPO while giving no thought to what may come afterward.”

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