It is entirely possible that we are witnessing the death of one of the internet’s favorite social media platforms in real-time. After charging for access to its API and attempting to squash subsequent protests via interviews with the hare-brained CEO, Reddit has now made its iOS app icon into a tacky, 8-bit monstrosity.
Yesterday, iOS developer Benjamin Mayo tweeted out a screenshot revealing to the general public that Reddit had revamped its app icon. While design tweaks are standard practice for companies to keep their brand fresh and/or signal a new beginning, Reddit may have singlehandedly made the ugliest app icon of all time—yes, worse than Instagram replacing the Polaroid camera icon with the grotesque purple gradient. The new icon is a riff on Reddit’s logo—an alien creature known as a Snoo against an orange circle—but this time it’s retro video game-inspired. Reddit has not changed the app icon on the Google Play store (yet).
The old Reddit icon is now behind a paywall, indicating that the company knows the new icon sucks. Reddit users on mobile can swap out the icon for a different one through the app’s internal settings, but the ability to swap is only available to Reddit Premium members. Reddit Premium is the platform’s VIP section, which promises an ad-free experience for $6.99 a month. While Reddit is clearly trying to make more money as it chases an IPO later this year, this is a bizarre move for the veteran platform and could be a sign that the platform is in dire straits financially as it chases every last opportunity, big or small, to make some extra cash.
Reddit did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment on the decision to change the app’s icon.
In April, Reddit announced that it would be charging companies for access to its application programming interface (API). Reddit did not make the cost of its API public after it was announced, and Steve Huffman, founder and CEO of Reddit, told The New York Times that he thought it was time “to tighten things up” at the company. It wasn’t until a back-and-forth between Reddit and third-party app Apollo that it was revealed the discussion platform was planning on charging $12,000 per 50 million requests to access its API—an unsustainable figure for most programmers.
The moderators of thousands of subreddits subsequently protested the news by taking their communities private for at least two days. Most have returned, while some have not—others have gotten more creative with their tactics. All the while, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman fanned the flames by antagonizing the platform’s user base. Reddit claims the decision to charge for its API is intended to prevent AI companies from scraping its website for data. While that may be true, it’s way more plausible that the platform saw it as a viable income stream, much the same way Twitter did when CEO Elon Musk realized he wasn’t making enough money.
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