I’ve never used Reddit without a third-party app. For a while, that was Narwhal, and most recently, Apollo. Sure, I read Reddit in Safari once in a while when a Google search leads me there, but I’ve never used Reddit’s first-party app because it’s never been as good as third-party alternatives.
In April, Reddit announced that it would start charging users for API access. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s a lot like what played out with Twitter’s API and third-party apps. And just like Twitter, Reddit is charging a price for its API that’s so steep, it’s hard to imagine any third-party apps will be able to pay it.
Christian Selig, the creator of the immensely popular Reddit client Apollo, on the pricing he was quoted:
I’ll cut to the chase: 50 million requests costs $12,000, a figure far more than I ever could have imagined.
Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year. Even if I only kept subscription users, the average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would cost $2.50 per month, which is over double what the subscription currently costs, so I’d be in the red every month.
I hope Reddit reconsiders its pricing, but I’m afraid we may be seeing the end of the era when platforms used free or cheap APIs to accelerate their growth. Reddit may be within its rights to charge so much, but that doesn’t make it any less a slap in the face to app developers like Selig, whose app has helped grow Reddit’s business. Between this and Twitter, it’s hard to imagine new services attracting third-party support as a way to grow their businesses ever again.