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Reddit wants to grow up. Will its community allow it?

For the past 11 years, Bucky has invested time and effort in managing and guiding dozens of communities redditGiant Internet message board.

As a “moderator” of nearly 80 different topic-based forums, Bucky — who goes by the name “Buckaroody” on Reddit and who asked that his full name not be used to prevent online harassment — and others like it are essential to growing and maintaining this social media site, which is one of the Internet’s largest venues for online discussion.

Until two weeks ago, when Bucky rebelled.

Reddit recently introduced changes that led to a sharp increase in its fees for independent developers who build apps using the company’s data. Reddit Chief Executive Steve Huffman partly pitched the move as a way to shore up the company’s finances as it moves toward its long-awaited initial public offering.

But the changes made it so expensive for some third-party developers that a handful of people who built tools for Reddit’s moderators had to shut down or significantly change their apps. In protest, Bucky and the other moderators Hundreds of forums on site shut down, making Reddit effectively unusable for many of its 57 million daily visitors. At one point, the site went offline entirely.

Bucky said, “It’s really demoralizing.” That said, being a Reddit moderator and dealing with users is hard enough already. “‘I put up with all this abuse for you, and keep your website clean, and this is how you repay us?'”

Reddit, an 18-year-old site that was part of the early wave of social networking, “Are elder,” Mr. Huffman has said in interviews. It’s unclear whether Reddit’s community will allow this.

Reddit, which is based in San Francisco, has in recent years tried to turn a burgeoning Internet message board into a full-fledged social media business by adding executives and bolstering its advertising capabilities. The 2,000-person company — which has been repeatedly mentioned as an IPO candidate — has raised more than $1.3 billion and is valued at more than $10 billion, according to Crunchbase and Reddit. public statement,

Other social media companies made similar changes when they went big. In 2012, Twitter changed its rules on how developers could access their data before it was made public, angering users and shutting down some popular third-party apps. Facebook has similarly made changes to the platform that have upset developers and led to backlash.

But this month’s rebellion on Reddit is prominent because it shows the immense power of the site’s community. The day after moderators shut down hundreds of Reddit forums, users spent 16 percent less time on the site, according to Estimate From SimilarWeb, an analytics company.

Reddit user Adrian Horning said, “Reddit is basically completely community based.” data scientist who created a bot that “scraped” the site’s data in response to fee changes. “The power that regular users have is embedded in the platform.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Huffman said his goal was to make Reddit better for newcomers and experienced users, and to build a sustainable business. He added that he was sorry that developers were surprised by the company’s pricing changes and wished that they had been more clear about how these changes would affect them. He said there was general concern over Reddit’s changes as part of a natural “maturation process”.

“We have the same love for Reddit and the same fear of losing Reddit that many of our users have,” he said.

Mr. Huffman and Alexis Ohanian founded Reddit in 2005 as a site with an adversarial view of the Internet and its advertising-based economy. Reddit supported free speech at any cost, zero advertising, and an insular culture that laid the foundation for the meme culture of Web 2.0.

Its community has long been fierce, causing Reddit to be embroiled in controversy at times. In 2013, this was the site where Internet spies discovered – and misidentified – Boston Marathon bombing suspect, After a year, it became dumping ground for nude pics Which were hacked from the cellphones of celebrities.

But as the site grew and venture investment poured in, its leaders saw the potential for Reddit to build a business. Prior to Mr. Huffman, the company had several chief executives, including former venture capitalist Ellen Pao – who left the company after six years – brought back in 2015.

Mr. Huffman eventually embraced the idea that Reddit could make money from advertising, a model he once loathed. he accepted Rule change set up by Ms. Pao Including some toxic material posted by people on the site. By 2021, he had confidentially filed paperwork To make Reddit public.

But when interest rates soared last year and the stock market faltered, Mr. Huffman put Reddit’s IPO plans on hold. Since then, he has systematically worked to improve the site, increase the number of users, and strengthen the company’s income.

In April, Mr. Huffman announced that he planned to restrict access to Reddit’s “application programming interface,” known in industry parlance as an API. The API is the main gateway for outsiders to access the company’s data for various purposes.

In an interview at the time, Mr. Huffman said he wanted to charge the big companies Google, Microsoft and Facebook for access to Reddit dataWhich has been used to train the so-called large language models that are at the heart of artificially intelligent systems.

But Mr. Huffman did not specify how pricing for API access would change and who would be affected. Then in May, Reddit began telling developers about its much higher pricing plans for such access. Earlier this month, a developer of Apollo, a popular app, announced that he is doing close the app Because Reddit’s Changes Will Cost It over $20 million in annual fees to operate it.

Many Redditors were upset that Mr. Huffman was ditching a beloved app in the service of building his business. Oldies were also upset that the bad days of Reddit’s anti-capitalist roots seemed to be officially over.

Mr. Huffman defended the decision, saying that it costs Reddit millions of dollars to support apps like Apollo, which send no money back to the company and don’t display ads from Reddit’s advertising partners.

To express their displeasure, dozens of “super mods” soon banned access to hundreds of Reddit’s most popular communities. To eliminate advertising in communities known as subreddits, moderators force the forums to be labeled “18+” forums to post pornography and other explicit material, which typically Not advertiser friendly. Other forms of protest have included a move by a subreddit, r/pics, to only allow sharing of photos of John Oliver in the forum. (Mr. Oliver reddit protest adoptedFinally sharing my pictures too.)

Mr. Huffman said he did not plan to change course. they said reddit is implementing it moderator code of conduct, which prevents moderators from closing their subreddits and posting depictions of pornography and violence on their forums (unless the forums are designated for such topics of discussion). Reddit also said it would replace moderators who did not follow the rules after the warning.

Bucky said the protests, which have subsided this week, have now devolved into a more general frustration that has developed over time.

“Whenever we see an outburst like this, the anger simmering under the surface comes back up,” he said.

For now, the subreddits are slowly returning online, although efforts to protest the changes are still taking place. Bucky said he was active in “Save3rdPartyApps” subreddit, Which was formed to organize protests on the site which is allowed under Reddit’s rules.

Reddit is even further away from a public offering than it was last year, Mr. Huffman said, but it will continue to build its business. He Said Community Rebellion Was Part Of Making Reddit reddit And said he and his team plan to continue dialogue with top moderators who were upset by the changes.

“For better or worse, this is a very unique Reddit moment,” he said. “This could only happen on Reddit.”

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