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Why AI caused the Subreddit Blackout
The AI effect in online communities
I’m an avid reddit user. It’s actually part of my nightly routine before I go to bed where I mindlessly scroll on reddit, browsing some of my favorite subreddits such as r/golf, r/smoking, or r/daddit. So when I saw that a lot of online communities were “going dark” because of the API pricing changes, I figured it’d be interesting to dive into the why .
Data and $
Data is the currency of the future — That’s something that has been said for years now.
With everything going on in AI and how we’re seeing a myriad of new LLMs being built every week, these are only possible with the vast amount of data available online. And a lot of LLMs are being trained on the free data available online through sites like Twitter, Reddit, and Stack Overflow (which have either raised their API prices or in stack overflow’s case, turned off their creative commons data dump)
Twitter (March 3, 2023): Twitter announces new API pricing, posing a challenge for small developers
Reddit (April 18, 2023): Reddit will begin charging for access to its API
Stack Overflow (June 9, 2023): June 2023 Data Dump is missing
Interesting pattern right? These companies are essentially seeing their data being used to train these LLMs and not seeing any benefit or payment from it and want a piece of the pie and don’t want to give away their data for free. Also there are talks of a Reddit IPO, so I’m sure there is some financial incentives there as well.
What does this mean for the future of online communities?
Online communities aren’t going away by any means, and in Reddit’s case, third party apps are going to be shut down (:tear: Apollo) and its hurting the 3rd party developer community. I’ve seen people talking about how communities should look to be decentralized or turn to other platforms (like how Twitter users went to mastodon or blue sky).
In the end, users will find a home, but the biggest challenge for communities is gathering enough users to create a community and build a sense of trust like how Reddit did. Maybe we’ll all end up with our VR headsets in the metaverse /s.