Reddit finds itself in a difficult situation. Reddit is caught between a rock and a hard place.

You may not have heard about the mass protest against Reddit. It’s being led by developers who are upset that Reddit has decided to charge for its APIs (application programming interfaces), which is essentially the gateways required to access the website and its data in order to build something. Reddit has been a target of a mass protest by developers who are upset about the recent strategic decision to charge for its application programming interfaces (or APIs, essentially the bridges needed to access and use data on this site).

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Reddit, also known as the “homepage” of the Internet, is a website where users can aggregate news and memes. They can also form communities and discuss…anything. Reddit is a big website, with tens or even hundreds of millions of users in some semi-autonomous sections. Reddit is now awash with valuable information and data.

Reddit’s message boards have been crawled by web browsers for years. This has created a mutually-beneficial relationship between Reddit and Google, which both became dominant platforms as they established themselves as the go-to places when you need to ask a question. ChatGPT and other “large language modeling” services are able to improve their models by ingesting large amounts of data. This relationship has been turned on its head by the rise of “large language models” (LLMs) such as ChatGPT, which are built and can only improve through the ingestion of vast quantities data.

Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman said in a Friday Q&A that the company is rethinking their stance on giving away “its corpus” of data for free. Reddit will charge app developers to access the data that was previously free. It also appears that much of the information that users have posted over time will be packaged and sold. Huffman explains that there are several reasons for this (and if you don’t know, it is easy to understand).

Reddit’s profitability has been a problem for years. This was encouraged by the “blitzscaling” era, when private investors would pour cash into companies to help them grow. But now, in the ZIRP economy, where it is more difficult to raise capital, just as Reddit is preparing to go public, this is not so attractive. Elon Musk began charging Twitter’s APIs. While many criticize his manic leadership style, Twitter’s peers and competitors may have noticed that the blue bird was still alive. Huffman also claims that the company spends “multimillions” of dollars per year to allow third parties access to their data.

Third, AI bots that have grown fat off of Reddit data will soon eat Reddit for lunch. LLM-based bots are akin today to parlor tricks, with very little engagement outside of superusers and prompt magicians. However, the tech industry is preparing itself for a future where ChatGPT and Bard will stop hallucinating. Why crowdsource from Reddit when there is a machine which promises to distill the wisdom of the people into a customized response? Which can be asked again and again, without becoming annoyed or telling you to check Google?

They’re mad regardless of whether they care about the company trying to generate new revenue and defend themselves against the Robot Swarm. It doesn’t look like the knee-jerk reaction that occurs whenever Reddit changes its design (which is surprising, given that Reddit always looked like Craigslist). In a Reddit posting, said that the boycott organizers believe the charges “are a step towards killing other ways to customize Reddit.” Some say that the site is inaccessible without a third party access point, despite its age of almost 20 years.

Reddit’s own app was only released in 2016, so users had plenty of time to get used to other apps like Reddit Is Fun or Apollo. These apps are now asked to pay possibly millions of dollars each year for the privilege to bring users to Reddit. However, many also provide unpaid benefits to Reddit. These apps are used by many of the site’s moderators.

What does this all have to do, dear The Node readers, with crypto? How can you make money with it? It depends on the outcome of this situation. This could have some implications for crypto as social movement. The ability of a company, to make unilateral decisions, that have a severe impact on users, is obviously a big plus for a movement which advocates for transparency, openness and user control. Maybe an enterprising young man, woman or child could create the next Reddit.

In a sense, however, the situation could also be viewed as a negative for crypto, if the boycott succeeds. If platforms like Ethereum want to become the foundation of a better internet, requiring people to build, maintain, and migrate to a new platform, and users to start fresh, on a brand-new social network, in the hope that things will be better, then blockades might be a better way to get what you want. The American public is increasingly mobilizing in mass protests that could be used to pressure companies such as Facebook and Google into improving their privacy standards.

Reddit, like many other companies founded in the early days of Web 2.0 (circa 2004 for Reddit), once preached that social networks could “democratize” information access and be a force of good for the world. Like other venture-capital-fueled companies, Reddit implemented more restrictive terms of use and moderation practices over time, both to satisfy the requests of users and protect itself against litigation.

Reddit, unlike Facebook, has maintained a more permissive approach to what users are allowed to post. Reddit is a massive corporate behemoth, but it has always had a strong affinity with crypto.

It turns out that the power to influence the tech world towards adopting its principles was always within the hands of the crypto community. If you can use the carrot of a token to influence a platform, then you may not even need one. Most people, however, don’t care much about the decisions taken by their favorite platforms and are willing to give up their data in exchange for a free service. It’s not that cryptography is unnecessary.

The Reddit case also shows the perverse incentives built into platform capitalism. The dream of advertising paying for free web services was a hoax, barring a few successful examples. Reddit may not be able to consistently make a profit despite the tens and millions of users it has every day.

Crypto is an alternative because it makes users aware of the costs associated with online interactions. If it is ever implemented, this system will not be any better. However, it would be nice to opt out. It’s not a boycott, but a quiet revolution that wants to empower the users to pay for themselves. It may become more and more crucial as more data is given to AIs who will be trained, almost inevitably, to show the perfect ad to you at the exact right time.