Social media businesses should not charge* for APIs. If a company like Reddit or Twitter derives most of its value from content that users write for free then it must provide APIs for anyone to download and manipulate that content. While an interactive API that enables third party applications is desirable, a simple static dump is the bare minimum to fulfill the social contract (see StackOverflow or Metafilter for examples.)

Unfortunately Twitter and Reddit don’t agree. They are both rent seeking with their APIs. Their main intent is to destroy third party apps that no longer aid the company’s business goals. But they’re also trying to make a few million bucks a year licensing access to data, particularly on the back of AI training. It’s wrong.

The key thing here is social media sites don’t produce content. They merely host it. Millions of users create the content expecting it will be widely available. Locking down an API breaks that social contract.

Honestly I don’t care as much about full fledged third party clients like Apollo or Tweetbot; I like them but I understand why the companies want to kill them. What I care about more are analytics sites, things that provide interesting alternative views like a Reddit user profile or Emoji tracking. I also think it is the greater good to let AIs train for free.

*I don’t mind a site charging a nominal fee for API access. Either to cover the cost of API service itself, or more importantly to encourage API developers to be efficient when making API requests. But that's hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, not millions.

The short sighted thing about these API fees is they will harm the company in the long term. If it becomes difficult to use a proper API to get at content folks will simply screen scrape it instead. That’s bad for everyone.

  2023-06-14 16:25 Z