The maker of Apollo, one of the most popular third-party mobile apps for browsing Reddit, may have to close up shop due to Reddit’s recently announced new API pricing terms. App developer Christian Selig shared today that Reddit’s API pricing appears to be bad news for the future of third-party Reddit apps, as it would now cost him $20 million per year to keep running Apollo’s business as is. Customer backlash over Reddit’s terms is already growing in light of the news, given Apollo’s long history of thoughtful app updates, iOS-friendly design, and general ease of use, which has made the app a popular alternative to Reddit’s official client.
The news is unexpected, as Reddit had assured developers the API pricing changes wouldn’t impact those who were building apps to help people use Reddit. Instead, the move was positioned as a way to protect Reddit’s sizable internet forum site from becoming free fodder for companies training their AI systems on large swaths of the internet. Essentially, Reddit wanted to get paid for its “corpus of data,” founder and CEO Steve Huffman told The New York Times in an interview.
According to his comments, developers who wanted to build apps and bots and researchers who wanted to study Reddit for academic or noncommercial purposes wouldn’t have to pay for the API, he said. (We understand those comments were misconstrued as they were meant to refer to developers building products on Reddit, not off Reddit, like Apollo, people familiar with Reddit’s API strategy told us.)
But Selig says that will not be the case, as it turns out.
In a post on Reddit, the developer shared that, according to phone conversations he’s had with Reddit, 50 million requests will now cost $12,000 under the new API’s terms — “a figure far more than I ever could have imagined,” he wrote.
“Apollo made 7 billion requests last month, which would put it at about 1.7 million dollars per month, or 20 million US dollars per year,” Selig explained.
The developer also said that making the app only available to subscribers in order to cut down on the number of requests would not be a solution, either, as the average Apollo user uses 344 requests per day, which would mean the average user would cost $2.50 per month. That figure is over double what the subscription currently costs, Selig said.
The Apollo maker had engaged with Reddit representatives across multiple conversations to discuss these pricing concerns, and while he characterized those conversations as civil and communicative, he expressed that he’s “deeply disappointed” with the results. (The company also gave him permission to post the details of the call, which is why he’s sharing the information on Reddit and elsewhere on social media, he said.)
Reddit’s new API pricing would effectively put Apollo out of business, it seems.
Apollo today has around 1.3 million to 1.5 million monthly active users, Selig told TechCrunch, and roughly 900,000 daily active users. Third-party estimates from app intelligence provider data.ai confirm Apollo has had close to 5 million global installs to date. While Selig declined to share specifics in terms of Apollo’s revenue, he says, “It’s not even in the realm of possible or close to what Reddit is charging.”
“In fact framing it differently, even if I kicked out every user other than the ones that pay a subscription, I would still be in the red every month,” Selig lamented. He also says there’s no plan B in the works as he wasn’t expecting to receive this sort of news.
Reddit’s decision to overprice its API access follows a similar move by Twitter. The latter ended up cutting off a large swath of the Twitter third-party developer ecosystem from being able to afford access to Twitter’s developer tools. As a result, numerous Twitter apps, clients, and services have since shut down or pivoted to focus on other areas, like supporting the open source Twitter rival Mastodon, for example.
Twitter finally eased back a bit on its onerous pricing and last week introduced a new $5,000-per-month API tier meant to make access slightly more affordable. The new tier sits between its $100-per-month basic tier and the $42,000-per-month enterprise tier but still doesn’t solve the problem for smaller businesses, given they’d need $60,000 per year to make use of it.
Apollo first launched on the App Store in 2017, and let’s just say, I was a fan. At the time, the app delivered a unique experience with features like customizable gestures, a media viewer, a full Markdown writing editor, and other features inspired by Reddit user feedback. Over the years, Apollo’s users have responded to the app’s customizability and power user features, as well as its iOS-friendly design. Selig said he aimed to build a Reddit app that felt like it could have been built by Apple itself.
The developer was also quick to adopt new iOS features, as it recently did with its launch of Lock Screen widgets for iOS 16, for example. In addition, Selig had a little fun with the iPhone’s new “Dynamic Island” user interface update that turned the pill-shaped notch at the top of the iPhone 14 Pro into a tappable and interactive feature for notifications. He invented clever Tamagotchi-style pets, or “Pixel Pals,” that could run around on the notch. The pets were so popular, they soon got their own dedicated mobile app too.
Since sharing his concerns on Reddit a few hours ago, Selig’s post about Apollo’s future has received 8.6K upvotes and counting. Not surprisingly, the app’s fans are fairly upset at this news, calling Reddit greedy, threatening to leave, and promising to support whatever Selig decides to build next, if this is truly the end for their favorite app.
Reached for comment, Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt provided the following statement:
This is absolutely not aimed at “killing” any third-party apps. We have been in contact with third-party apps and developers, including Apollo, over the course of the last six weeks following our initial announcement about API changes, and our stance on third-party apps has not changed. We’re committed to fostering a safe and responsible developer ecosystem around Reddit — developers and third-party apps can make Reddit better and do so in a sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnership, while also keeping our users and data safe.
Expansive access to data has impact and costs involved, and in terms of safety and privacy we have an obligation to our communities to be responsible stewards of data.
Lastly, Reddit data for commercial use will need to adhere to our updated API terms of service and premium access program. We’ve had a long-standing policy in our past terms that outlined commercial and non-commercial use, but unfortunately some of those agreements were not adhered to so we clarified our terms and reached out to select organizations to work with them on compliance and a paid premium access tier.
Updated, 5/31/23, 5:56 PM ET with Reddit statement.