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Friday, June 21, 2024

The Reddit App War Is Getting Messy

Big changes are coming to Reddit, and nobody is happy about it. Reddit management is looking to take the company public, which means the money-minded folks behind the scenes are feeling pressure to spruce up the coffers of the free-to-use social media service. Naturally, those effots have riled up the site’s users.

Back in April, Reddit announced it would be tweaking its API, affecting how third party apps can use Reddit’s data and architecture. Essentially, the company is hiking the cost of using its data to levels third party app developers say are untenable.

Christian Selig, who developed the popular iOS Reddit app Apollo, estimated the changes will end up costing his service upwards of $20 million dollars per year to keep operating. Both Apollo and another much used Reddit app, Reddit Is Fun, have since announced they will shut down rather than pay the cost.

The move by Reddit has been drawing a lot of comparisons to the recent seismic shifts at another social media site: Twitter. Earlier this year, the Elon Musk-owned iteration of the company announced it would charge an exorbitant amount for API access, pricing out many third party services and forcing them to shut down.

Members of the Reddit community—or at least the loud ones who aren’t just perpetual lurkers—have been enraged by the coming changes. Moderators of many popular subreddits have coordinated a two-day blackout of their subreddits to protest the move. Yesterday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (aka u/spez) held an AMA on the site to answer questions about the changes. The session promptly turned into a bloodbath, as furious users downvoted Huffman’s comments into oblivion.

The battle has also devolved into a finger-pointing blame game. (Selig wrote a long post decrying Reddit’s actions on the Apollo subreddit. Huffman commented about Selig in his AMA, saying, “I don’t know how we could do business with him.”)

It’s all become very messy, which in a way also feels very in character for Reddit. Here’s hoping the march toward profit doesn’t make Reddit go the way of the Twitter dodo.

We'll have more WIRED coverage of the Reddit API saga next week. For now, here’s some other news.

Oh Good, Amazon Prime Is Gonna Have Ads Too

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is planning an ad-supported tier of its Prime subscription service. Chances are, it’ll be cheaper than the $9 a month a subscription to the service costs now.

It’s not a sure thing; companies toy with these ideas all the time without actually implementing them. Still, Amazon has been sunsetting departments and laying off employees, eager to cut costs and make up that money elsewhere. Also, it has a predecessor to follow. Netflix launched its own ad-supported tier last year (and finally just started limiting account sharing.) It’s been successful for the streamer, with nearly 5 million people on the ad-supported plan. It’s easy to see how Amazon might want to eke out a little bit of that same success.

AI Eats Advertising

Speaking of ads, have you been on LinkedIn lately? The business-oriented social platform has set its sights on the AI craze, and is testing out a tool for marketers to use generative AI text prompts to create copy for advertisements. Utilizing OpenAI GPT tech, the feature will let you use prompts to generate all manner of marketing lingo.

The feature is only available in North America for now, but will likely soon expand further. And you know it already has to be generating some especially insipid broetry posts.

Face Off

You probably heard Apple has a mixed reality headset coming next year. The Vision Pro, as it’s called, is a $3,500 pair of goggles with a battery pack dangling from it. Apple showed off the device on Monday by positioning it as the next step in wearable tech. Will it be the future of face computing? Will anyone actually want to wear the thing?

All those questions and more are unpacked on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast. Plus, details on all the other big stuff Apple announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

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