r/Place, the five-day collaborative digital artwork project on Reddit, ended on Tuesday, and the result is a captivating tapestry of the human experience.
The project, which began as an April Fools’ Day experiment in 2017, allows any Reddit user to post a single colored pixel on a shared blank canvas, every five minutes. Over five days, a mosaic gradually emerges—and it is, by design, a product of myriad people, places, and perspectives, with the five-minute wait time making it impossible for one user to hijack the picture.
In 2017, over one million people took part, but this year—the second ever for the project—over 6 million people placed nearly 72 million tiles by the fourth day, at a pace of over 2.5 million tiles per hour.
Behold, the final image:
We present to you… [drum roll, please!] the final r/place 2022 canvas. pic.twitter.com/NCOzmSHa98
— Reddit (@Reddit) April 5, 2022
The past days saw fan-led campaigns from subreddits—like r/StarWars, which mapped out an entire movie poster, or r/EldenRing, which illustrated a character from the video game—as well as a turf war for canvas space. At one point, tribes banded together to battle a challenge from the “void,” an amorphous black blob.
While there was scheming and sabotage involved, the overwhelming vibe of the project was one of unity and togetherness—offering a much-needed win for Reddit, on its road to a potentially $15 billion IPO. Some media outlets were, perhaps for the first time ever, calling the website “wholesome,” and the ultimate image felt representative of how magnificent it can be when a diverse world melds over shared ideas, hobbies, beloved icons, and activism.
Reddit, which is the 19th-largest website globally and was once billed as the “front page of the internet,” is still massive, but has seen stiffer competition from social communities in the digital age, such as Discord and Twitch, which have grown their own cult followings.
However, r/place proved to be a viral phenom, catapulting Reddit’s mobile app usage to a record high. According to data analytics firm Sensor Tower, daily active users were up 25% year-over-year—beating out even the meme stock buzz from 2021, and reaching an all-time peak by the second day of r/place. It also became the top downloaded app in France, Belgium, and Turkey.
It will likely be a strong selling point for Reddit on its eventual IPO road show. (The website filed paperwork in December, but has not given a timeline.) However, it will still have to defeat skepticism over whether its bursts of engagement are sustainable, as well as its limited appeal for advertisers—partly due to its users’ disdain for it, and partly due to Reddit’s loose moderation policy. “It feels like quite a scary place to be for many small to medium and bigger brands who are cautious about where they place themselves,” one media consultant told Reuters.
In recent years, Reddit has tinkered with its features to better compete with rivals, including engineering short-form video and audio in the style of TikTok and Clubhouse.