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Reddit’s API Fee Shuts Down Apollo Amid Accusations of Blackmail

In an unexpected turn of events, popular Reddit client Apollo is set to terminate operations on June 30. The shutdown comes as a direct consequence of Reddit’s decision to implement charges for developers to access its content, a policy shift attributed to the growing trend of generative AI in the tech world.

Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, explained that companies have been leveraging the vast corpus of user-generated text on Reddit to train large language models, like the popular chatbot ChatGPT. Reddit’s perspective? This wealth of text is a high-value asset, and companies wishing to utilize it should have to pay for access.

Apollo found itself at the heart of this contention, which, in essence, centers around access to Reddit’s API. APIs serve as connectors allowing apps to exchange data. Apollo’s developer, Christian Selig, acknowledged the rationale behind Reddit’s decision to monetize access, but he criticized the approach as “not being based in reality.”

In particular, Selig took issue with Reddit’s pricing model, which demanded Apollo pay $0.24 per 1,000 requests to its API. Under this pricing structure, Apollo would be facing an unsustainable bill of $20 million annually based on its current usage. With Selig revealing that Apollo’s 50,000 users contribute to an annual revenue of just $500,000, the numbers simply don’t add up.

The controversy is not exclusive to Reddit. Twitter, under the ownership of Elon Musk, has been restricting API access and even banned third-party clients like Tweetbot that lacked advertisements, a crucial revenue source for the platform. This tightening control has been mirrored across leading AI companies like OpenAI and Google, who restrict the usage of their content for training AI models while using content from Reddit and other sources for their own model training.

As Reddit declined to comment on its API pricing strategy and Apollo’s impending shutdown, a more dramatic narrative unraveled: Selig accused Huffman of alleged blackmail. Huffman purportedly claimed that Selig suggested Reddit purchase Apollo for $10 million as a means of silencing him. Selig refuted this, stating he was simply suggesting a fair compromise to resolve the situation, not threatening the company’s reputation. This matter continues to hang in the balance, with transcripts from recorded calls serving as the basis of these claims.

As Reddit gears up for its public offering, its controversial decision to monetize API access and the ensuing fallout with Apollo has cast a spotlight on the tension between content ownership, AI development, and web-based platforms. The outcome will have significant implications for developers, users, and the future of web content.