If you’re not in the loop on Reddit’s API drama, the TL;DR is Reddit moved from open and free APIs to a fee-based system that charges based on the number of API calls you make. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Twitter went down a similar path, and many other open platforms have decided to shut the doors to open API access. The argument for why? OpenAI and AI models are being trained on hordes of open Internet data and, of course, the possibility to eek some revenue out of all the folks hooked on Reddit’s content.
As you might imagine, that approach makes the cost to run something like Apollo unsustainable.
Is Reddit wrong? Apps built for platforms like Twitter and Reddit are like symbiotic bacteria, but one organism is much more dependent on the other. As a platform, Reddit is about user-generated content, and as with Twitter or LinkedIn, it makes us feel like investors or partners in this whole social sharing experiment. But let’s be honest. Revenue and control of the platform you own is what this is really about. If you’re not in control of the last mile, you can’t control how your consumers interact with you or it. You’re constantly limited in how you can advertise, how you personalize, and the ways you can use them to generate revenue.
Hey Reddit, when you fix the mobile and iPad apps, call Mindgrub. We make great mobile apps.
The idea of open APIs and access to platforms has become a surprisingly divisive thing. Like most stories in 2023, our story of APIs starts with Elon Musk and Twitter and the decision to shut down third-party app access.
Many, many, many folks were upset that Twitter would shut off access to TweetBot or Twitterific. These apps have been part of Twitter from the start and one inspired Twitter’s logo. To add insult to injury, this made us all collectively realize that Twitter’s mobile app is not great (call me, Mindgrub builds excellent apps). But, Twitter didn’t just band third-party apps – what it did instead is rate limit API calls and implement a new system to charge based on the amount of API calls per month. The price tag was so hefty that bit by bit folks said nope.
Unrelated to Twitter, OpenAI blew through the doors of technology like the Kool-Aid man. Whoever had AI on the 2023 Bingo card deserves all the money. The products like DALI-2 and ChatGPT continue to blow all of our socks off – but then the deep dark secrets of OpenAI and other AI platforms began to drip out.
These LLM (Large Language Model) systems need data, and when I say data, they need all the data. The more you can feed the dang thing, the better – it’s like Seymore, and it wants all the information. Some of this best information came from the most open of sources, places like Twitter, Reddit, and Stack Overflow. These platforms are unique in havings tons of experts who share their advice or answer questions in the most open forums.
Elon Musk and Twitter responded that this was why they needed to lock down APIs and tweets so that eager AI training models won’t try to consume this valuable training data without paying the troll toll. Reddit and other sources of these models followed, and now we find ourselves full circle.
Apollo, my preferred Reddit reader and the only reader with a pixel pet finds itself facing the same issue as Tweetbot and Twitteriffic, the costs for the APIs they need to use from Reddit cost too much.
I get it. I understand it. But sometimes I think of the founding of our great Internet and a time when information was free and people linked to link for love. I guess that was the Internet’s 70’s – and today is a differnet time, but I can’t help but wonder if the hordes of people training models on the open Internet might find the reigns getting pulled a little tighter. I also wonder if this just continues the trend of pay walls popping up everywhere.