June 17, 2024

Redditors are already using r/place to address API controversy

on Reddit r/place It’s one of the weirdest events to inspire the internet, with different communities across the platform coming together to paint together on the same massive digital canvas. But amid the ongoing controversy over Reddit’s variable API pricing, which has put many indie developers out of business, this year’s r/place serves as an opportunity for Reddit users to continue their rebellion.

The origin of the r/place dates back to 2017, when it was created by Reddit engineer Josh Wardle as an April Fool’s Day event (yep, that’s the same guy who made Wordle!). On a million pixel canvas, any registered Redditor can add one colored pixel every five minutes. So, individual subreddits will work together to make their mark on the massive, collaborative piece of art — in the past, we’ve seen giant Brazilian flags, pixel-perfect recreations of the Mona Lisa, countless rainbows, and John’s Pizza that stares into your soul. The project returned for a second time in 2022, attracting almost 11 million users, so Reddit decided to bring r/place back again this year. The event was scheduled for June 23, but it was delayed, because at the time, many subreddits were closed down in retaliation against API changes.

“So what they’re saying is that they’re so bad they’re going to try to draw our attention to the place,” said a Redditor said on the notice.

Following Twitter’s (also controversial) lead, Reddit announced in early June that it would begin charging developers for access to its API, limiting the community’s ability to create plugins and features that make Reddit more accessible and enjoyable. Christian Selig, developer of the popular iOS client Apollo, said it would now cost him $20 million a year to keep his app online, so at the end of June, he shut down for good. Other applications such as Sync for Reddit, BaconReader and Boost for Reddit have also been shut down, and the developers for Relaunch, Now for Reddit and Narwhal decided to start charging subscriptions. Not everything on the internet can be free, but these resources have been an integral part of Reddit for so long that these changes can be a slap in the face.

Instead of listening to the public, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman – known on the site as u/spez – doubled down in defense of the API changes. Redditors see it as a reflection of how Reddit has changed for the worse, so now, r/place is covered with messages that say “fuck spez.” At the time of publication, there were about 50 different variations of “fuck spez” on r/place (…and within another fifteen minutes or so, several of those messages were covered in rainbow “DICKS”). A German community got really creative, writing “u/spez ist ein hurendsohn,” which roughly translates to “u/spez is a son of a bitch.” Ouch.

The canvas changes quickly, and will likely be unrecognizable by the end of the project. But so far, r/place is sending a clear and unified message that Reddit’s user base is not happy with Huffman’s leadership. Even within these protest groups, there are divisions – some want to paint the whole canvas black, and have begun their efforts to call it “the black hole”. Another part is on the “fuck spez” train. And some people think that participating ir/where gives Reddit executives what they want, which is more and more what happens on their site.

Image Credits: Reddit

No amount of “fuck spez” is likely to change Huffman’s mind about Reddit’s API pricing. But at the very least, these efforts show that users are not willing to back down just yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *