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Indefinite boycott: User uprising rocks Reddit

Indefinite boycott: User uprising rocks Reddit

Reddit is one of the most visited websites in the world – millions of users exchange opinions there every day on a wide variety of topics: relevant forums, “subreddits”, dealing with politics, computer games, animal videos, as well as Austria. The variety of themes is enormous, there is a separate subsection for food not served on plates and another for ‘armed birds’, which really lives up to its name.

Some of these forums have been banned since Tuesday – in protest. Some of the more than 8,000 participating forums are now accessible again, but a few of the more frequented sub-forums will enter an “indefinite” boycott, according to a joint announcement. Only when Reddit meets the demands of users will they return.

Reddit wants to ask apps out

The impetus for the unusually widespread user strike is new rules that Reddit announced in April and plans to implement soon. Specifically, it’s about third-party apps that will have to pay—sometimes significantly—to access Reddit in the future. The goal: Your app usage should be promoted, as it displays ads – this is ultimately Reddit’s main source of income. This should play a role, especially with regard to the initial public offering that has been planned since 2021.

But the announcement was met with heavy criticism from users, who lost several functions in the official Reddit app that they knew from other apps. Some responsible developers have already announced that they want their apps to be shut down in case Reddit enforces the new rules.

Voluntary moderation teams upset

Forum moderators are also particularly affected: they use apps to monitor the flow of posts and, if necessary, to filter posts, delete hate posts, and fend off spam as well. They’re doing it completely without pay — and now they’re seeing themselves let down by Reddit.

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Even before the boycott, the protest drew a response from Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Hoffman, who posted on the platform as a “u/spez”: Take criticism seriously and make slight concessions, he wrote in a scathing post on Reddit. He also could not calm down the psychics – the basic demands had not yet been met.

APA/AFP/Getty Images/Randy Shropshire

Reddit co-founder Hoffman expects the storm to pass

On Tuesday, an internal message from Hoffman to his roughly 2,000 employees was released: There has been “a lot of noise” surrounding the blackout. However, there is still no “significant impact on revenue,” Hoffman said. “Like all turmoil on Reddit, this one will pass,” Hoffman said.

Reddit is not Twitter

But this way of thinking could backfire under certain circumstances: While these are purely technical changes on the surface that actually affect a manageable number of users, the community seems to see only the next move against the already strained relationship between users and Reddit. For years, some users felt misunderstood by the administration — previous attempts to break away were largely unsuccessful, such as right-wing discussion platform Voat, which briefly gained popularity during the 2016 US election campaign.

A few years ago, the blogging platform Tumblr showed what can happen when entrepreneurs and customers disagree about their own service: A not-so-significant percentage of users also use the platform for sexual content — but this is not viewed highly by investors and usually leads to restraint. At the end of 2018, Tumblr put an end to the exposed skin, but this should not lead to an increase in interest in the platform, after only a few months it was looking for a new buyer – in 2013, 1.1 billion US dollars had to be paid for the service, in 2019, It was rumored that she was just the number one million.

Under Elon Musk’s leadership, Twitter has also taken similar steps to Reddit now. Unlike Twitter, Reddit relies more on the voluntary cooperation of its users. Volunteer moderators are largely responsible for keeping Reddit legal. And: unlike Twitter, Reddit is not the official mouthpiece of many politicians and other celebrities.

If it weren’t for users starting funny animal videos, memes (pictures of jokes), and discussions on sometimes silly topics, the rush to Reddit could go down quickly. When asked by ORF.at, the moderators of the Austria subreddit forum “r/Austria,” which has more than 400,000 users, weren’t happy with the impact of the protests, “While we discuss further steps, ‘r/Austria’ will remain open,” it says.