HomeGadgets and ScienceThe Reddit Protests are Already Forcing Unexpected Changes

The Reddit Protests are Already Forcing Unexpected Changes

The impact of the Reddit blackout is becoming evident, albeit not as intended by its organizers. Rather than reversing the API policy changes that will result in the closure of third-party apps like Apollo, Reddit’s leadership has staunchly defended its position. CEO Steve Huffman stated that it was time for the company to mature and shed its status as a free service, which sparked anger among users who were accustomed to accessing Reddit without cost. The blackout, which caused over 8,000 subreddits to go dark temporarily, was initially downplayed by Reddit in an attempt to minimize its impact.

Although the initial 48-hour blackout period has ended, the protest is ongoing as numerous subreddits remain private or restricted. Even immensely popular subreddits such as r/funny, r/aww, and r/Music, each boasting tens of millions of subscribers, continue to participate in the protest indefinitely. The consequences of major Reddit communities going dark extend beyond the platform’s users; they also affect search results significantly. The collective wisdom, discussions, and shared knowledge that define Reddit are heavily relied upon, and the absence of these resources has led to dead-end search results instead of helpful answers.

Reddit administrators alluded to the potential for change in a post on r/ModSupport, suggesting that new active moderators would be invited to ensure the continuity of active communities if existing moderators unanimously decided to stop moderating. The post sparked concern among long-time moderators, who interpreted it as a direct threat. The future policies of Reddit regarding its volunteer moderators remain uncertain, as the company has not provided clarification or indicated any plans to alter its moderator removal policy. However, it seems that Reddit aims to rebalance the power dynamics that have historically given unpaid moderators disproportionate influence over the platform.

Additionally, the blackout has affected Reddit in other significant ways. Some power users have started exploring alternative platforms like Lemmy and kbin, which operate on a federated model. These decentralized platforms, similar to Mastodon and other Twitter alternatives, still face challenges and cater to niche communities. Nevertheless, there has been growing interest from certain corners of Reddit in recent weeks. Alternatively, large communities have shifted to more familiar platforms like Discord.

Despite Reddit’s attempts to downplay the blackout’s impact, advertisers have taken notice. AdWeek reported that some advertisers have temporarily halted advertising while waiting for the blackout to conclude. Although Huffman claims that the protest has not significantly affected the company’s ad revenue, extended disruptions within communities advertisers are keen to reach could change that. An unnamed ad buyer expressed concerns about being associated with Reddit’s decisions and users’ opinions about them.

Ultimately, the consequences of the blackout could lead to a transformed Reddit. Rory Mir, the associate director of community organizing for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlighted a recurring pattern in which platforms that turn their backs on the community face dire consequences. Users revolt, abandon the platform, and the company struggles to generate profits from the resulting wreckage, as Mir explained.

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