If you are not a redditor, you may be unaware that there has been a multi day blackout to protest changes regarding API pricing:
At the peak of the blackout, more than 8,000 subreddits went dark in support of the API protest—though Reddit told Forbes earlier this week it was not “planning any changes to the API updates” they previously announced. Before the protest was planned to end Wednesday for most subreddits, The Verge published an internal company memo from Reddit that informed employees the blackout would pass and was not having a significant impact on revenue—a development that became one of the primary motivations behind an indefinite blackout for many subreddits. The changes were first announced in April, and by this month, popular subreddits like r/music, r/sports, r/gaming and many more participated in a blackout that either restricted or completely stopped followers of their pages from interacting with them.
Here is a brief explainer on what the API price changes will do:
For most of Reddit’s history, its value was its community and users, who post, comment, and moderate forums, also known as subreddits, for free. That adds up to millions upon millions of hours of unpaid labor that Reddit really can’t do without.
But Reddit is not just a community; it’s also a business. Its business needs will always come first, and right now, the company says it needs to make more money. So Reddit is soon going to charge for commercial access to its API, or application programming interface, which several third-party developers rely on to power their own Reddit-based apps. Those apps are often better, faster, and have more features than Reddit’s own. Reddit is also cutting sexually explicit content off from those third-party user interface apps entirely, while still allowing it on its official app. Reddit says the vast majority of services that use its API will not be affected, and that non-commercial tools that help moderators won’t be charged. Reddit is also rolling out its own moderator tools to replace what they’ll likely lose once the API changes are implemented.
When Reddit first announced it would start charging for API access in April, it framed the decision as a response to generative AI companies that scrape its content to build their lucrative large language models while paying Reddit nothing in return. Reddit app developers probably didn’t think they would be affected. After all, their products are supposed to make the Reddit experience better, and Reddit’s been just fine with that for many years.
One of the subgroups of redditors who will most be impacted by the changes in pricing are disabled users:
In a conversation with The Verge, Norbert Rum, who founded r/blind in 2008, pointed out several places where Reddit’s official app falls short of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the set of standards used to guide developers in the creation of accessible apps and websites.
One is huge: people relying on keyboard-only navigation can’t actually use the app, a critical issue for people who rely on voice control. Reddit’s official app is also not compatible with screen readers, which read content to blind and low-vision users and also provide navigational information.***
Disabled users say the most obvious fix to their accessibility woes is an overhaul of the official app. This could include fixes to address outstanding access issues, such as the need for alternate text and clearly labeled buttons that can interact with screen readers appropriately, and might integrate options to address cognitive disabilities and physical impairments such as Parkinson’s or tremors, which can make it very hard to use apps without making mistakes. In the short term, they want their beloved apps to be able to continue operating, which would require revisiting the API pricing and the timeline for implementation.
As for r/blind, it remains dark in protest, with a bitter twist: thanks to access conflicts, only a sighted person could actually flip the switch that set the community to private.
All of this is interesting to me, at least, but I suspect many of you, if you are still reading, are wondering why I am taking the time to talk about it. And the reason, dear Juicers, is because I think it serves as a useful introduction of one of my favorite things to think about lately- the curb-cut effect (the link here is different from the video below).
It’s a fun thing to think about, and to think about how unintended consequences is a neutral concept- they can be both good and bad. In video games, lots of design decisions for accessibility have made the game easier for fully sighted individuals and I often play shooters in colorblind mode.