UT Austin Subreddit joins Reddit strike in solidarity with third-party apps

Pili Saravia, General News Reporter

The UT Austin Subreddit went offline alongside thousands of other Subreddits protesting Reddit’s decision on June 12 to charge third-party users. The Subreddit went public again on June 20. 

“We (protestors) want to set a precedent for things that we will and won’t take from social media providers,” communications professor Madeline Holland said. “We want people to know that this next wave of Internet users, which is Gen Z, is not going to be pushed around like this.”

Third-party apps format all Reddit posts with customized navigation or features for accessibility purposes. But Reddit’s management announced they would charge third-party apps higher fees, making them unaffordable. In response, thousands of Subreddits — subsections of Reddit where members discuss a designated subject — went dark and were inaccessible. 

The UT Austin Subreddit, r/UTAustin, served as a forum for freshmen seeking advice, students answering each other’s questions and announcements ranging from campus safety to the dining halls’ grilled cheese.  

“The people going on Reddit know the type of people that they’re going to be encountering on Reddit,” Holland said. “I think people feel that sense of kinship or community, like ‘These are the other people that kind of like me, so I feel safe asking a question here.’”

Computer science senior Akram Bettayeb said the blackout restricted students from asking questions or accessing previous posts, meaning they could not utilize the Subreddit’s information. Bettayeb understands the importance of the protest but said it should be constrained to more casual Subreddits.

“(UT joining the blackout) directly maps onto a real physical community of people anticipating going to UT Austin, and people who are living on the 40 acres,” Bettayeb said. 

A government sophomore and her UT alum dad said r/UTAustin helped them navigate her transfer process last semester. When the Subreddit went dark, they made a new Subreddit, r/UTAustinTX, to keep providing students with the same resource. 

“I can understand that they wanted to support other Reddit communities that went dark, but there were many university Reddit forums that did not go dark,” her dad said. “It was right in the middle of freshman orientation, so I think it really just hurt students.”

In a Reddit post, Apollo developer Christian Selig said Apollo, a third-party app designed for smoother performance on iOS devices, will shut down on June 30.

“It’s been a horrible week, and the kindness Redditors and moderators and communities have shown Apollo and other third-party apps has genuinely made it much more bearable, and I am genuinely so appreciative,” Selig said in the post. “I am, admittedly, doubtful Reddit wants to listen to folks anymore so I don’t see (the blackout) having an effect.”

Reddit did not change its decision following the blackout. Starting July 1, the company will charge third-party apps $0.24 for every 1,000 application programming interfaces, including upvotes, downvotes and loaded posts. Holland said this decision hurts Redditors with disabilities who are better assisted on third-party apps. 

“(UT) stands behind this idea of ‘You belong here,’” Holland said. “We have disabled students in large numbers at UT, so we want them to be welcome to the UT subreddit. (Joining the blackout) is one thing we can do to put action behind our words.”