Apollo, the Biggest 3rd Party App for Reddit is Shutting Down
This is a single insight from This Week in Apps - Reddit's Regrettable Blunder. Check out the full article for more insights.
I don't normally do opinions in this newsletter and prefer to let the data speak for itself, but I find what's going on with Reddit and 3rd party apps right now to be very interesting, and relevant for anyone making an app that uses someone else's API, so I wanted to share my thoughts.
In case you're not up to speed - Reddit has recently announced it'll start charging developers to use its API. Several companies, like Twitter, have done this recently citing cost and also trying to protect (aka monetize) their content from harvesters like AI trainers. This is important for later.
But that's not the issue. The issue is that 3rd party Reddit clients, which rely on its API, are now being required to pay to use the API, and for most (if not all), the cost is simply too high.
The app that's driving the news this week is Apollo, a 3rd party client for Reddit that's run by an indie developer and loved by many in the Reddit community. It was also used by Apple in the WWDC keynote last week. So it's a big one.
Christian, the app's developer, is very open about everything that's going on and ultimately his decision to shut down the app at the end of the month. I highly recommend giving his post a read.
Long story short - Reddit wants to charge Apollo more than it can afford, in the double digit millions, to continue using its API while limiting the API, forbidding API users from monetizing with ads, and giving Christian 30 days to decide what to do.
As if this wasn't enough, in addition to all of that, it sounds like the team communicating with 3rd parties is not playing nice. And it's not just the team, The CEO is doing the same.
Now you're mostly caught up!
As an entrepreneur this raises questions. Lots of questions. The most obvious is simply "why"?.
In the last 24(ish) hours since Christian announced Apollo will shut down, there's been so much public outcry that many subreddits are now going offline in protest next week as many Redditors are deleting their accounts. That's some serious backlash.
Is Reddit really threatened by Apollo?
And it's not just Apollo, several other apps have announced they'll be shutting down at the end of the month as well.
If Reddit is truly after those who take its data away – and that isn't exactly its data but rather content owned by its users – why not work with 3rd party clients who don't do that to help them keep their apps alive? After all, those help Reddit get more content into its platform, and clearly, content is king here.
Or, is Reddit threatened by the lack of control they have over "their" content outside of their native experience? Really, the number of users who won't see ads?
To give this threat some context let's have a look at downloads. In May, Apollo saw 62K new downloads, according to our estimates. That's a lot, but then you compare it to Reddit's own app which saw 1.5M new downloads and everything changes. Apollo is getting roughly 4% of the official app.
And that's only on the App Store because Apollo is not on Android. According to our App Intelligence, Reddit saw 1.7M new downloads from Google Play in May. Throw that into the mix and Apollo's share dips even lower.
I don't think it's the users and I don't think it's really even the content. I think Reddit and its leadership has lost the connection they once had to their platform so now it's just an ad network.
John Gruber's take on this is a bit different than mine but very valid:
"Reddit already gave all its data to large companies for free. Huffman is trying to charge now for horses that were let out of the barn years ago. And he obviously doesn’t care about Apollo or other third-party Reddit clients, or what these moves do to Reddit’s reputation as a platform vendor. He’s just trapped in a fantasy where investors are going to somehow see Reddit as a player in the current moment of AI hype."
You can read John's take here.
I waited to write this portion until after the AMA with Reddit's CEO was over (or at least on its way) in case he'll show my take on it was wrong and possibly make a gesture that would undo all of this as a "big misunderstanding". Unfortunately that didn't happen, instead he just proved my point.
Many are saying that as developers we shouldn't build for platforms anymore, especially as this isn't the first app to meet its end in the last few months (RIP TWeetbot), but I don't think that's good advice.
Build what you want to have and be ready to adjust as necessary. It's not a promise that you'll always be successful, so make sure you hedge your bets and continue building.
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All figures included in this report are estimated. Unless specified otherwise, estimated revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.