The popular third-party Reddit app Apollo is shutting down on June 30, 2023, as a direct result of Reddit’s recently announced new API pricing plans which would end up costing Apollo $20 million per year to continue to operate its business — an unsustainable ask for an indie developer. The app’s maker, Christian Selig, had been one of the first to call out the impact Reddit’s new API pricing would have on third-party Reddit apps, noting that even if Apollo switched to a subscription-only model, it would still be in the red under the new API guidelines. Since then, other app makers have come forward to share their same concerns and community backlash has prompted a site-wide protest with several top communities planning to go dark to send a message to Reddit leadership.
Reddit first announced its plans to adjust its API pricing in an interview with The New York Times, where it was positioned as a way to help keep Reddit’s sizable online forum site from becoming free fodder for companies training their AI systems on large swaths of the internet. Reddit has since said the move was not meant to “kill” third-party apps, but it’s hard to see how it would not, given the price increases.
After Selig’s call with Reddit to discuss pricing, he seemed to realize running the app would be unsustainable as a business.
“I’ll cut to the chase: 50 million requests costs $12,000, a figure far more than I ever could have imagined,” he wrote on the Apollo app’s subreddit last week. “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,” adding that he was “deeply disappointed in this price” and that Reddit had promised pricing would be reasonable and not operate like Twitter.
Twitter’s API price increases under new owner Elon Musk put a number of smaller projects, startups, helpful bots and third-party clients out of business. Even researchers and academics were impacted, leading to heavy ridicule and criticism of how Twitter was destroying its wider developer community out of greed.
Reddit’s community has been angry to see the same thing now apparently taking place on their favorite internet forum site. To protest the changes, a number of subreddits are organizing with a plan to go dark on June 12, including r/aww, r/videos, r/Futurology, r/LifeHacks, r/bestof, r/gaming, r/Music, r/Pics, r/todayilearned, r/art, r/DIY, r/gadgets, r/sports, r/mildlyinteresting and many others. Several of these communities are in the double-digit millions in terms of size. In total, 2,740 subreddits have agreed to participate in the protest, encompassing 1.31+ billion (non-unique) users.
Today, Selig announced he’s made the decision to close down Apollo for good as it has no possible future under Reddit’s new pricing.
In his new and extensive post, he tries to address a range of questions and concerns that have been brought up over the past several days, which includes clarifications around how Apollo had been using Reddit’s API — the company accused the app of operating inefficiently and not being a “good” API user. Selig points out that Apollo does not do scraping, as Reddit claimed, and even open sourced the server code to prove this. He also addressed comments that Reddit made (and yes, he has receipts in the form of recorded calls) about third-party apps not being interested in working with the company, among other things, saying he’s not sure where Reddit would have gotten that impression.
While the FAQ Selig provides is a good behind-the-scenes of the fallout around the API changes and how things came to be, it ultimately doesn’t change the outcome. Apollo will shut down for good. The app also won’t qualify for the newly announced exception for accessibility apps, despite support from members of the r/Blind community who listed it as one of the apps that offers more accessible features than the official client.
Apollo is not the first third-party app to announce that it will have to shut down because of these changes. ReddPlanet developer said its app would also shut down the app by the month’s end as did RIF (Reddit is Fun). Another, Infinity for Reddit, released a paid version in hopes of being able to sustain the app.
Apollo first launched on the App Store in 2017, delivering 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, and has regularly adopted new iOS features, like Lock Screen widgets, support for Dynamic Island and more.
Ironically, Apollo was just featured at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this week, where it was mentioned a few times during Apple’s 2023 WWDC keynote, including by Craig Federighi, and during the Vision Pro announcement, which demonstrated Apollo as one of the existing apps compatible with Apple’s new headset, notes Selig.
Third-party estimates from data.ai put Apollo just shy of 5 million installs.
“I genuinely wish this could have ended differently, and up until this week, I genuinely was excited about the future of working with Reddit,” Selig told TechCrunch. “But I’ve seen over the past week that Reddit no longer has any interest in making this work, and is engaging in tactics that I don’t want to be a part of, so I’ve made the decision to close down Apollo permanently on June 30th,” he said.
“That’s thankfully done pretty well and I’ll be spending more time on going forward,” he said.