Earlier this month, Reddit community moderators took a risky action that generated a lot of online discussion. They protested over the platform’s contentious choice to charge some developers for access to its priceless data.
The consequences were clear as users withdrew and began to disregard the platform, which was once referred to be the “first page of the internet.” On June 12, moderators who oversee hundreds of subreddits (platform communities) demonstrated against Reddit’s decision to charge developers for using its API. By creating exclusive and gated enclaves, they expressed their displeasure.
According to information provided by web traffic research company Similarweb, the “blackout” movement that briefly forced Reddit to go down decreased daily traffic by roughly 7% and the amount of time visitors spent on the Reddit website by about 16% between June 12 and 13. A decrease in daily visitors to Reddit’s ad gateway, which advertisers use to target their audience and power promotional efforts for Redditors, was another effect of the criticism from some community moderators and users.
Reddit stated in April that it would begin charging developers for use of its API. The decision to prevent unauthorised individuals from accessing Reddit data, which may be used to create text-generating machine learning models like OpenAI’s GPT 4, was an obvious one. The only exceptions were programmers creating apps and bots to help Reddit users and researchers looking to analyse the marketplace for research purposes. Nevertheless, as a result, third-party applications, such as famous Reddit client Apollo, found it challenging to cover such fees and made the decision to cease operations. Many well-known subreddit moderators joined the protests against the API price decision in favour of those apps and developers.
Most recent figures show that the negative effects on Reddit’s daily traffic and average time spent have improved, suggesting that the initial drop was just transitory. According to data from Similarweb, 8.37 minutes were spent on the platform on average on June 23 and there were about 55 million visits.
Yet, according to Similarweb, from June 13 to June 23, the average daily visits to Reddit’s ad site (ads.reddit.com) fell by roughly 20%, from 16,009 visits to 12,874 visits.
According to David F. Carr, senior insights manager at Similarweb, the decline in visits to Reddit’s ad gateway implies advertisers were less eager to work with the platform while the protests were taking place.
In comparison to the previous week’s average (June 5–11), the average time spent and session counts between June 12 and 14 were down 14% and 8%, respectively. Some well-known subreddits on the platform were private throughout these three days.
While some subreddits made the decision to go permanently dark, many have recently begun to reappear. According to Sensor Tower’s data, between June 15 and 21, fewer people on average spent 6% and 4% less time and had fewer sessions on the Reddit app than they had before the protest. The company did highlight that compared to averages for both metrics during the first period between June 12 and 14, the time spent and session counts increased by 8% and 4%, respectively, in these seven days.
According to Abe Yousef, a senior insights analyst for finance at Sensor Tower, “despite a slight inflection in user engagement with the organised protest largely concluding on June 14, some popular subreddits still remain dark, which is likely weighing on a return for user time spent and sessions to pre-protest levels.”
As evidence, the percentage of one-star reviews for the Reddit U.S. iOS app decreased to around 86% between June 15 and June 26, according to data from Sensor Tower.
The ratio of 1-star ratings as a percentage of all reviews in the post-[the initial] protest period is still significantly higher than the average of 53% examined in the previous two months, according to Yousef, despite a little easing up in 1-star reviews.
The information provided by Sensor Tower also shows that “apollo,” “third party,” and “3rd party” were the top three terms mentioned in every Reddit U.S. iOS review, indicating that people were bombing review ratings in light of the new API shift.
Parallel to this, the company notes that since May 31, the average number of downloads of the Apollo app have increased to around 9,000 per day, up from 3,000 per day in the prior 60 days. This comes after some rumours that the independent Reddit app was shut down. Yet, the app itself made the announcement on June 8.
Between June 12 and June 14, when the protest first began, Reddit’s average daily active users globally on its mobile app decreased slightly by roughly 2% from the previous day. The average daily active users have, according to the company, largely recovered to pre-protest levels in recent days.
Requests for Reddit to comment on the third-party stats received no response.
The 2005-founded platform, which is 18 years old, intends to submit an IPO application. Despite having a $10 billion valuation at the time of its most recent funding round in August 2021, the company is currently having trouble staying competitive in the industry. At the same time, Reddit and other social networks are being used as a data farm by GPT and other generative AI-powered models to develop their solutions.