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Reddit CEO Steve Huffman defends API changes in AMA

“We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” he said.

STRF/STAR MAX/IPx

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has finally spoken publicly about the company’s deeply unpopular API changes that have resulted in some of the most-used third-party reddit apps saying they will be forced to shut down. In an AMA (Ask Me Anything) discussion, Huffman promised improvements to Reddit’s own app, but seemed unwilling to make concessions on pricing and other issues that have rankled the community.

“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” he wrote in his AMA post. “Some apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync have decided this pricing doesn’t work for their businesses and will close before pricing goes into effect.”

In a series of mostly 1-2 sentence responses to detailed, multi-part questions, Huffman acknowledged some missteps in the company’s API rollout, but largely declined to tackle thornier questions about the company’s handling of its relationship with third-party developers. In one response, he conceded that the 30-day window given to developers for the new API was a “tight timeline” and said the company was “continuing to chat with many of the developers who still want to work with us.”

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But other developers soon weighed in, noting that they had never heard back from the company, despite reaching out through the channels promoted by Reddit. “I have been trying to contact Reddit over the last 3 months and have been completely ignored,” one developer wrote. “I feel completely powerless to do anything right now and I want to try and save the app I've been working on for the last 10 years.” Huffman apologized and said the company would respond.

When asked about why the company accused Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, of threatening the company — a claim Selig denied and promptly debunked with an audio clip of a phone call with a Reddit rep — Huffman doubled down on the criticism. “His ‘joke’ is the least of our issues,” he said. “His behavior and communications with us has been all over the place—saying one thing to us while saying something completely different. I don’t know how we could do business with him.” (Huffman didn’t respond to a followup question from Selig asking for examples of such behavior.)

Huffman, who goes by spez on the platform, also promised that Reddit was working on improvements to its own app, including its moderation tools and accessibility features. Both areas are often cited by Redditors who prefer third-party apps to the company’s native app. He also said that the reason why third-party apps would no longer be able to show sexually explicit content was due to a changing “regulatory environment” and legal concerns. “It’s a constant fight to keep this content at all,” he said. “We have to be strict / conservative about where it shows up.”

One of his most telling answers came in response to a question about the perception that “Reddit has become increasingly profit-driven and less focused on community engagement” than it has in the past. “We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,” Huffman responded. “Unlike some of the 3P [third-party] apps, we are not profitable.”

Notably, there were a number of topics Huffman didn't address, including why the company priced its API at a rate that developers say is prohibitively expensive. Huffman also didn’t address the upcoming blackout from thousands of subreddits protesting the API changes. More than 3,000 subreddits have pledged to “go dark” for two days beginning June 12th to protest the changes.

By the end of the AMA, Huffman had responded to 14 questions, while a few other executives answered a handful of their own. In perhaps the most telling sign that their answers were not well-received, every answer from the reddit team was downvoted so heavily they were almost impossible to view within the AMA thread itself. A moderator later linked all of their answers at the top of the thread. “We know answers are tough to find,” they said.