William Du, Staff Writer

On April 1, 2017, Josh Wardle created r/place, a social experiment that would “capture a screenshot of the internet at the time.” The 2017 r/place consisted of a blank canvas with 1,000,000 pixels and 16 colors. During the short period of 5 days, users could log in and contribute a pixel to the canvas, collectively creating giant art pieces. At its conclusion, 1 million users had edited the canvas, and pop culture trends such as OSU!, League of Legends, and Destiny 2 became immortalized in one of the internet’s most viral experiments. 


This April, r/place made its triumphant return at its 5th anniversary mark. This time, r/place was even bigger, featuring two expansions that doubled the size of the canvas each time. Within hours of its start, communities had already teamed up to ensure their territory on the canvas. One of the first drawings to show up was a giant OSU logo, which came under attack multiple times during the four days. Although the speed at which the OSU logo was built and maintained was impressive, analysis of the heat map suggested the use of bots. Equally noteworthy first appearances were the American and British flags. While the British flag would last to the end of r/place, becoming even sharper over time, the American flag was not so lucky. After two days of harsh attacks, the Americans lost their territory to the flag of Chile and a giant picture of a cat. Although temporarily defeated, the Americans eventually relocated their flag to the bottom right corner, which remained one of the most significant drawings on r/place.


Like the original r/place, the modern version contained many pop culture trends, the most notable being Among Us. During the second expansion, a vast Among Us character seemed to take over the canvas and, through many edits, changed color, grew body parts, and became increasingly disturbing. Unfortunately, the size of the Among Us character brought about its downfall, and after a day of poor maintenance, it disappeared in the sands of time. Although the final canvas does not feature a prominent Among Us character, a minor pixelated form of its logo could be found throughout the background of other works of art. Other notable popular trends that had their drawings featured include Wall Street Bets, Gigachad, One-piece, and many others. One can find a complete list of every picture at https://place-atlas.stefanocoding.me/.


These events barely scrape the surface of the giant rabbit hole that is r/place. One could spend hundreds of hours analyzing the final 4 minutes of timelapse, watching as different drawings unfold, collapse, and persevere in the 2000 by the 2000 pixel arena. In a way, r/place is an analogy for life, where minor objects are more likely to last longer, while big projects require the teamwork of thousands of people. Gazing at the colorful montage, unrestricted by rules and regulation, really gives us a sense of how far we have come and makes us wonder what will feature in the 2027 edition of r/place.