Reddit’s April Fool’s Day always includes a quirk, prank, or interesting experiment, and this year was no different. The front page of the internet embarked on a grand social experiment called r/place, a custom subreddit that allowed users to create a massive crowdsourced art project over the course of 72 hours, which has been distilled into one mesmerizing timelapse video.
The rules of /r/place were simple: Each user could change the color of one pixel on the board every five minutes, anywhere they wanted, and as many times as they wanted. The subreddit’s sidebar — a place where rules and instructions are located — reads, “There is an empty canvas. You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another. Individually, you can create something. Together you can create something more.” It’s a nice message, and a challenge that many couldn’t ignore.
The subreddit began on March 31 and went nonstop until its completion. In the short amount of time since then, it has amassed over 218,000 subscribers. The final result was a digital tapestry full of references to movies and video games, plugs for other subreddits, logos, and more memes that you’d care to count.
After it was over, participants and fans of the project sought ways to bring it into the real world.
Another made a cleaned up version of the final image, removing stray and renegade pixels so the final images can be seen with more clarity.
Finally, a time-lapse of r/place’s entire lifespan was created so everyone — especially those who missed out on the action in real-time — could see how things unfolded. The resulting four-and-a-half-minute video is a saga of conflict and collaboration. Images appear all over, vying for a chunk of the limited space and overlapping one another. r/place’s users began coordinating to create more and more complex artworks, nailing famous images like the Beatles’s yellow submarine with impressive accuracy.
One of the most compelling moments of the experiment was a battle that took place over the American flag image that made up the center of the project and remained there for most of the 72 hours. At one point, it becomes completely eclipsed by an intrusion of colors and shapes, only to be restored by others coming to its rescue. It was captured in a .gif.
Is it a metaphor? Probably not, but it sure is fun to watch.
r/place now joins the long lineage of Reddit’s strange and compelling Aprils Fools’ Day celebrations. Most notably, it stands right up there with “The Button”, a long running game that demanded users work together to keep pushing a button before a timer ran out.
Following up r/place on next year’s April 1 will be a tall order, but until then, it’s worth spending some time poking around in the final r/place image. Chances are something you love is hiding away in there.