Every year on April 1st, the internet becomes a minefield of fake products and sensational headlines. I still remember the disappointment I felt when I realized I had been bamboozled by ThinkGeek’s Dharma Initiative Alarm Clock, a clock based on the system Desmond was responsible for maintaining in the Lost television series.
One site, however, approaches April Fool’s Day a little differently. On Reddit (ranked as the 17th most popular site in the world), April 1st marks the release of a temporary activity in which its millions of users can partake. What starts off as a fun game of sorts usually ends up becoming an interesting look at how communities interact with themselves and with one another.
Last year, for example, the Reddit Admins launched /r/TheButton, a subreddit whose header contained a large grey button that could be clicked only once, and after it was clicked, your username had flare next to it indicating how long you had waited before pressing. (I made it 59 seconds.) More than one million users participated, and over the course of the few days that The Button was active, the “Greys” – users who never pressed the button – separated themselves from the “filthy pressers” (in jest, of course).
This year, it wasn’t The Button, but /r/Place, a 1,000-by-1,000 pixel grid canvas with only one rule: each user could only add a pixel of color once every five minutes. Otherwise, it was up to the imagination of the hivemind. And, despite the internet’s propensity for ruining everything good and innocent, /r/Place ended up becoming a beautiful expression of what a collection of random internet strangers can accomplish. Collectively spending roughly 83 man-hours filling the canvas, the ultimate creation is really something to behold.
Here’s a fully zoomed out picture of the canvas as it looked at the conclusion of the event earlier this morning (interactive version can be viewed here):
All manners of pop culture, both new and old, appear here.
Memes, like the He-Man version of 4 Non Blonds’ What’s Up? and Nyan Cat…
…can be found alongside great works of art, including the Mona Lisa and Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
There’s also a tribute to David Bowie…
the logos of several sports teams…
…and, of course, /r/Place is filled with the flags of many countries and states.
There’s really too much to cover here, so do take a look at it for yourself and see what you can find. If you’re interested in the evolution of the canvas, this video by Reddit user maramok provides several time lapses at different zoom levels of the whole thing.
In many ways, /r/Place is a snapshot of the best that the internet can be, a depiction of myriad communities all representing themselves in one place. Browsing Reddit over this past weekend, it was great to see so many people collaborating in their respective subreddits, coordinating with one another to draw and create.
“Individually you can create something“, the sidebar says.
“Together you can create something more.”
How true that turned out to be.
All photos screenshots from reddit.com/place.