So right now (12 June 2023), many pages on Reddit have gone dark in protest of what’s going on on Reddit. What’s going on is that Reddit is gearing up for an IPO (Initial Public Offering), where they sell stock in the company. The Venture Capital people who’ve poured lots of money into Reddit want some Return on their Investment, and are pushing it to make money. Lots of money.
Well, that also means that the culture of Reddit is going to change a lot. For one thing, you’ll see lots of new ads. Users tend not to like this, and use adblockers. There are also lots of 3rd party apps that show content from Reddit (phone apps on iOS or Android). These apps would probably try to avoid showing ads. In order to get Reddit’s content, they use something programmers call an API.
And here’s what I think is going on: Reddit the corporation doesn’t want them to do this anymore, so they would like to shut down their access to the API. But there was a hue and cry when Twitter did this last year, so instead of flat out shut it down, they’re going to increase the price from basically $0.00 to something like $20,000,000.00 per year (I’m not joking, that’s what’s going to happen on 1 July). This will effectively kill all the 3rd party apps, like Relay, Apollo, Reddit is Fun, Bacon Reader, and the rest. The only app left will be the app created by Reddit themselves, which is generally considered to be crap. And will show ads.
So lots of people are upset, and many thousands of subreddits are going dark starting today for a couple of days in solidarity with the app creators. Not that this will do anything. Better would be to stay dark until the powers that be change their minds, but that’s not going to happen.
What can I do?
Keep in mind that all the content on Reddit is user created. Reddit makes money on what you and others write there without paying you anything. And the moderators that tend to the various subreddits are also unpaid volunteers. So if you, like many, think that what’s happening is a Bad Thing, you can vote with your eyeballs. Specifically, don’t use Reddit anymore.
Note, when lots of moderators leave (keep in mind, they use these apps to do their moderation work, and the official app just doesn’t work well for them), many subreddits will start to fill up with spam and other dreck. This will make it easier for people to leave as they get fed up with the ever-worsening situation.
Part of the problem is that Reddit, like Facebook and Twitter, is a monolithic corporation. They have control and can change the site as they see fit. If you don’t like it, tough. But you always have the choice to leave and go somewhere else.
There are other websites that do similar things (Reddit is more generally called a link aggregator). Two main alternatives are on the Fediverse. Of course, there are link aggregators available there. The most promising are lemmy and kbin. Some really good info on the fediverse is from fedi.tips.
Today these sites and others like them are being hammered as many people make an exodus from Reddit (which someone wonderfully termed rexxit), so they’re somewhat unstable. They also aren’t feature complete yet, and developers are actively working to flesh them out.
Use sub.rehab to find where subreddits have migrated to.
Lots of people get confused by Federation, but it’s not something to avoid federated software about. I’ve written a page on Federation and the Fediverse.
Lemmy is the older sibling, having started in 2019. Their project site is at join-lemmy.org, with documentation here. They only have the link aggregation, not the microblogging that kbin has. Instead of “subreddits”, lemmy has “communities”.
Overall, as of 5 August 2023, it appears that lemmy has mostly won. There are many more lemmy instances, and a lot of phone apps for it. Right now there aren’t any phone apps for kbin. Remember, you can access communities on one from the other.
kbin is the new one, started in late 2022. The kbin project is at kbin.pub. Their main english language instance is at kbin.social. They do 2 main things: microblogging, and link aggregation. It looks a lot like Reddit. Instead of “subreddits”, they have “magazines”, but think of them as the same thing. Each magazine has its own microblog, which I find confusing.
Here’s how to use kbin.
Another possibility I just found out about is BrutaLinks. It’s another fediverse alternative to Reddit. It has a few rough edges, but some time and polishing can lead to a real alternative.