The maker of Apollo, one of the most popular third-party mobile apps for browsing Reddit, may have to close the shop due to new API pricing terms Reddit recently announced. App developer Christian Selig shared today that Reddit’s API pricing appears to be bad news for the future of third-party Reddit apps as it will now cost him $20 million a year to continue running the Apollo business as it is. Customer reaction to Reddit’s terms is already growing in light of the news, given Apollo’s long history of thoughtful app updates, iOS-friendly design, and general ease of use have made the app a popular alternative to the official Reddit client.
The news is unexpected, as Reddit has assured developers that the API price changes will not affect those who have been building apps to help people use Reddit. Rather, the move was conceived as a way to protect Reddit’s massive internet forum site from becoming free fodder for companies that train their AI systems on large swaths of the internet. Essentially, Reddit wanted to get paid for its “data pool,” founder and CEO Steve Hoffman told The New York Times in an interview.
According to his comments, developers who wanted to build apps and bots and researchers who wanted to study Reddit for academic or non-commercial purposes would not have to pay for the API, he said.
But Selig says that won’t be the case, as it turns out.
In a post on Reddit, the developer shared that according to phone conversations he had with Reddit, 50 million requests would now cost $12,000 under the terms of the new API — “a much more number than I could have imagined,” he wrote.
“Apollo placed 7 billion orders last month, which put them at about $1.7 million per month, or $20 million annually,” Selig explained.
The developer also said that making the app only available to subscribers in order to reduce the number of requests wouldn’t be a solution either, as the average Apollo user makes 344 requests per day, which would cost Apollo $2.50 per month. That’s more than double what it currently costs to subscribe, Selig said.
The Apollo maker engaged with Reddit representatives across multiple chats to discuss these pricing concerns, and while he described those conversations as civil and communicative, he expressed his “deep disappointment” with the results. (The company also gave him permission to post details of the call, which is why he shared the information on Reddit and elsewhere on social media, he said.)
Pricing Reddit’s new API would effectively put Apollo out of business, it seems.
Today Apollo has about 1.3 million to 1.5 million monthly active users, Selig told TechCrunch, and about 900,000 daily active users. Third-party estimates from application intelligence provider data.ai confirm that Apollo has nearly 5 million global installs to date. While Selig declined to share details regarding Apollo’s revenue, he said, “It’s not in a world possible or close to what Reddit dictates.”
“Actually, I put it differently, even if I kicked out every user other than those who pay a subscription, I would still be in the red every month,” Selig said. He also says that no Plan B is in the works because he did not expect to receive this kind of news.
Reddit has been reached for comment but has not yet provided a statement. We plan to update the company’s comments as they are submitted.
Reddit’s decision to overprice its API access follows a similar move by Twitter. The latter ended up cutting off a large portion of Twitter’s third-party developer ecosystem from being able to afford access to the Twitter developer tools. As a result, many of Twitter’s apps, clients, and services have been shut down or pivoted to focus on other areas, like supporting Twitter’s open source competitor Mastodon, for example.
Finally, Twitter has backed off a bit on its onerous pricing, and last week introduced a new $5,000 per month API tier that aims to make access a little more affordable. The new tier falls between the $100-per-month Basic tier and the $42,000-per-month Enterprise tier but still doesn’t solve the problem for small businesses, since they’ll need $60,000 per year to make use of it.
Apollo first launched on the App Store in 2017 and let’s just say, I was a fan. At the time, the app offered a one-of-a-kind experience with features like customizable gestures, a media viewer, a full Markdown writing editor, and other features inspired by Reddit user feedback. Over the years, Apollo users have responded to the app’s customizability and power user features, as well as its iOS-friendly design. Selig said he aimed to create a Reddit app that he felt could have been created by Apple itself.
The developer has also been quick to embrace new iOS features, as it did recently with its release of lock screen widgets for iOS 16, for example. Plus, Selig had a bit of fun with the iPhone’s new Dynamic Island UI update that turns the pill-shaped notch at the top of the iPhone 14 Pro into an interactive, clickable feature for notifications. He invented smart Tamagotchi-style pets, or “Pixel Pals,” that could run around the notch. Pets were so popular, they soon got their own mobile app, too.
Since sharing his concerns on Reddit a few hours ago, Selig’s post about the future of Apollo has received 8.6k upvotes and counting. Not surprisingly, fans of the app are somewhat upset by this news, calling Reddit greedy, threatening to leave, and pledging to support whatever Selig decides to build next, if this is truly the end of their favorite app.