Reddit goes down just as a site-wide protest against its unpopular new API policy kicks off

Just as thousands of Reddit communities went dark to protest the company’s controversial new policy that will put third-party apps out of business, the website itself has gone down. Reddit confirmed to TechCrunch a planned protest against its new policy has caused the outage. According to user reports, first began experiencing problems around 10:25 AM EDT.

Reddit’s Status page initially showed “all systems operational,” including its website, even as reports began flooding in indicating that the homepage won’t load. Soon after, the status page was updated to reflect the outage.

When you try to load the site, the main feed displays the message “Something went wrong. Just don’t panic,” and a pop-up says “Sorry, we couldn’t load posts for this page.” Content isn’t loading in the official mobile app, either.

According to Reddit’s Status, the company is aware of the problem loading content and is working to resolve the issues. The status page didn’t identify the cause or ETA to a resolution.

However, a Reddit representative confirmed the outage had to do with the planned protest, which saw a number of Reddit communities (subreddits) turning private at once.

“A significant number of subreddits shifting to private caused some expected stability issues, and we’ve been working on resolving the anticipated issue,” said Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt.

TechCrunch is seeing a number of complaints across Twitter about the outage, including those that wonder if it’s somehow tied to the planned protest. Asked one user, “how can Reddit be down if no one’s using it?”

Thousands of subreddits had been preparing to go dark on Monday in one of the largest protests on the site to date. At issue is the company’s new API pricing policy, which will increase the cost for developers to the point that those operating third-party Reddit apps will largely have to shut down their businesses. In a testy AMA (Ask Me Anything) last week from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, aka u/spez on the internet forum site, the company further explained its decision but didn’t show any signs that it would reconsider, despite the massive community backlash. The exec also singled out the developer of one of the most popular third-party apps, Apollo, claiming bad behavior on the developer’s part, which further angered users.

Some accessibility-focused communities were also highly concerned about the coming shutdowns of their preferred third-party apps, as the official Reddit mobile client didn’t meet their diverse needs. Reddit relented on this front and said a handful of accessible apps would be exempt from the new API policy, which goes into effect July 1, 2023.

Today, thousands of subreddits were launching a coordinated protest against Reddit leadership, by “going dark” — meaning they would switch their forums to private instead of public, which impacts their visibility both inside Reddit and on outside search engines. Dozens of these communities have over 10 million subscribers, and include some of Reddit’s biggest groups, like  r/aww, r/videos, r/Futurology, r/LifeHacks, r/bestof, r/gaming, r/Music, r/Pics, r/todayilearned, r/art, r/DIY, r/gadgets, r/sports, r/mildlyinteresting and many others.

Some, including r/iPhone, decided it would extend the protest beyond the planned 48 hours and remain private “indefinitely.” That means that no one, except moderators and approved submitters, could see the subreddit’s front page. Others would just see a message that the community had been set to private.

Ahead of the protest, over 5,000 subreddits had signed up to participate.

At 11:47 AM ET, Reddit’s Status page says it’s monitoring the site: “We’re observing improvements across the site and expect issue to recover for most users. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Updated, 6/12/23, 11:31 PM ET with Reddit comment; story has been updated at other indicated times to reflect current status.