Reddit CEO Steve Huffman: Third-Party Apps Aren´t Adding Much Value

Huffman argues the decision to increase API fees is about maintaining the balance between supporting developers and ensuring Reddit's financial sustainability.

CEO Steve Huffman has addressed several ongoing issues related to user and developer protests, platform accessibility, and new API fees in a detailed interview with The Verge.

Huffman asserted that while he recognizes the magnitude of the recent protests, the decision to increase API fees is about maintaining the balance between supporting developers and ensuring Reddit's financial sustainability. He highlighted that while other platforms have banned third-party applications entirely, Reddit has chosen to uphold a free-market principle where these apps should cover their costs.

Responding to the ‘Blackout' Protest

Following an unprecedented “Blackout” protest earlier this month, where users and developers alike joined forces against Reddit's proposed API fees, Huffman acknowledged the intensity of the response. “We were taken aback by the scope of the protest,” Huffman admitted, “It's a testament to how passionate our community is about the platform.”

Developers and users initiated a joint effort to fight the imposed API charges, arguing it could stifle third-party applications' growth, particularly those focused on accessibility. The so-called Reddit Blackout involved users refusing to engage with the platform and developers pulling their apps off Reddit's API, causing significant disruption.

Reddit API Use: 98% For Creating Tools, Bots, and Enhancements

In the interview, Huffmann conveyed that the overwhelming majority of API utilization, roughly 98%, was dedicated to creating tools, bots, and enhancements to Reddit, rather than supporting third-party applications like Apollo for Reddit. He emphasized that the API was never initially intended to support such apps.

Huffman conceded that he had allowed third-party apps to exist on Reddit's platform and assumed responsibility for any repercussions, stating that he had championed their presence for an extended period. However, he now expressed concerns about third-party applications generating profit via Reddit's API, a reality he admitted to being unaware of and took personal responsibility for, stating that these apps were not purely altruistic in nature.

When queried on whether he thought third-party apps like Apollo, rif for Reddit, and Sync, which are all considering discontinuing their services due to the change in pricing, added value to Reddit, Huffman responded negatively. He contended that these apps reaped more benefits than they offered to Reddit.

”Apps Should Bear Their Own Costs”

In response to the growing backlash against the platform's pricing changes, Huffman expressed his belief in fairness and the necessity for these applications to bear their own costs. He pointed out that other companies have outright banned similar applications, whereas Reddit has chosen a different approach. He argued in favor of a free-market principle, suggesting these apps should bear their costs.

However, Apollo's developer, Christian Selig, has countered Huffman's perspective, arguing that meeting Reddit's asking price on such short notice was near impossible.

Finally, Huffman was unable to provide a concrete reason for the tight deadline given for the new pricing policy, beyond the need for having a deadline in place. He did express willingness to collaborate with developers who wanted to engage with Reddit, including discussing potential transition periods. Huffman stated his belief that deadlines can drive parties to negotiate and move things forward.

New Chat Channels: A Discord Competitor?

On another front, Huffman also commented on the recent introduction of chat channels for subreddits, a feature many users see as a direct challenge to popular messaging platform Discord. “The addition of chat channels is about enhancing the community experience on Reddit,” Huffman explained, “It is not our intention to ‘challenge' any other platforms.”

Despite the recent protests and controversy, Huffman expressed optimism about Reddit's future. He stated, “We've listened to our community and are making changes accordingly. We are committed to building a Reddit that's better for everyone.”