As Reddit Drama Continues, ActivityPub Growth Continues to Skyrocket

The battle between Reddit and its CEO continues. With that battle continuing on, ActivityPubs user count continues to soar.

Earlier, we reported on the massive fallout of Reddit’s decision to charge huge fees for API access. The decision led Reddit moderators to take their subreddits private, creating a massive blackout protest in response. Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman didn’t back down, telling staff that this is just noise and that it’ll soon be over – an indirect reference to some of those protesters have said that the blackout protests would only last 48 hours. In response, many of those moderators shifted and said that the protest would be indefinite until the decisions are reversed.

Part of the fallout also involved the rapid development of ActivityPub alternatives to Reddit. Two such alternatives are Lemmy and KBin. Signups to the overall ActivityPub protocol skyrocketed with thousands of users registering every hour. While all of these events are, indeed, early days, the possibility that this could be another major shift in the internet pecking order being under way really started to be possible.

In the days since, it seems that Huffman is not backing down. In fact, Huffman seems to be emboldened these days as he threatened to remove moderators partaking in these protests. From MacRumours:

As some subreddits continue blackouts to protest Reddit’s plans to charge high prices for its API, Reddit has informed the moderators of those subreddits that it has plans to replace resistant moderation teams to keep spaces “open and accessible to users.”

In a comment shared by r/Apple moderator @aaronp613, Reddit cited its Moderator Code of Conduct and said that it has a duty to keep communities “relied upon by thousands or even millions of users” operational. Mods who do not agree to reopen subreddits that have gone private will be removed.

If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users. If there is no consensus, but at least one mod wants to keep the community going, we will respect their decisions and remove those who no longer want to moderate from the mod team.

Recently, some subreddits did open back up, but with a very different look. Some of those subreddits only feature pictures of talk show host and comedian, John Oliver. From Mashable:

A number of popular subreddits have cheekily relaunched amid the widespread protest against Reddit from its users. Three massive subreddits — r/pics, r/gifs, and r/aww — now feature only images of comedian John Oliver.

This new development is a direct shot at Reddit’s CEO, who has said he thought most users would want things to return to normal than continue the protest against the company’s new policy that effectively prices out third-party apps.

Apparently, Huffman issued other comments that only added fuel to the fire. From TechDirt:

First he dismisses this as a “business decision” that some users didn’t like:

“It’s a small group that’s very upset, and there’s no way around that. We made a business decision that upset them,” Huffman told NPR in his first interview since nearly 9,000 subreddits staged a 48-hour boycott. “But I think the greater Reddit community just wants to participate with their fellow community members.”

I mean, the second part is correct, of course. But it’s also besides the point. Of course the greater Reddit community just wants to participate. But the reason they’re protesting is because Huffman’s own decision to effectively cut off their API makes it more difficult to participate.

And, again, this kind of waving away the protest is insulting:

“The protest, what it really affects is the everyday users, most of whom aren’t involved in this or the changes that spurred this,” Huffman said.

No shit. Of course most users aren’t involved in this, but it’s the people who understand how much damage this does to the site — generally the most passionate users of the platform — who are trying to make the point and get the word out.

But, really, the line that got me the most was this one:

“Reddit represents one of the largest data sets of just human beings talking about interesting things,” Huffman said. “We are not in the business of giving that away for free.”

I mean holy shit dude. Do you listen to yourself? Where did that “data set of just human beings talking about interesting things” come from? It came from millions of people who gave you that content for free. And many of them used the site through third party apps because those apps made your site much more useful without charging you a dime.

The entitlement of Huffman is astounding.

He got free content and free app development work and now he’s going around whining about how “we’re not in the business of giving that away for free.”


It seems that as the drama continues, ActivityPub continues to get new signups and bigger amounts of activity. According to Mastodonusercount, the total users on the ActivityPub platform is inching closer to 13 million users:

So, the explosive growth on the fediverse protocol is continuing to be sustained. Mastodon is, of course, part of the ActivityPub protocol, so Mastodon users are seeing this explosive growth as well. This sustained growth continues to add credibility to the viability of the Reddit alternatives on that platform. We’re obviously not anywhere near to a full on replacement yet by any means, but the idea that these platforms can be sustainable is certainly within reason at this stage already – teething issues aside of course.

Edit: Greetings users of KBin! Thank you so much for giving my little website the time of day. I hope you enjoy your stay here! Huge props to demvoter for submitting the link too!

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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