Web developer Will Smidlein managed to bypass the six-second upload limit on Vine today, inserting the entirety of Rick Astley's immortal "Never Gonna Give You Up" into a post that was ultimately taken down by Twitter. "I think I broke Vine," Smidlein tweeted, along with the full embed of the song. He previously tweeted that Twitter engineers had asked him to take the post down.
The first ever Rickroll on Vine occurred the same day that the app became available for Android. Smidlein, 16, declined to say in detail how he got around Vine's upload limitations. But he's not the first to do so: as noted by TechCrunch, in March, the blog OneSoneX described a technique that involves uploading from the camera roll of a jailbroken iPhone. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company said earlier today that Vine now has 13 million users.
Update: The Verge has now spoken with Smidlein, who offered new details about how the Rickroll took place.
Smidlein has experience developing for Android, and when Vine came out today on the platform he decompiled the app. He then re-created portions of the Vine API that enable users to create posts, add titles, and insert thumbnail images. From there, Smidlein downloaded the "Never Gonna Give You Up" music video. Using methods he declined to describe until the Vine app is patched, he posted the file to the app's servers. And suddenly, the six-second video app was hosting an infinitely looping, three-and-a-half-minute Astley classic.
"Honestly, it was just for my friends and the people who follow me on Twitter and Vine."
Smidlein, who lives outside Cleveland, Ohio, never expected the post to go viral. "Honestly, it was just for my friends and the people who follow me on Twitter and Vine," he said in an interview. His efforts to share the post with friends were stymied when Twitter went down earlier in the day. A friend wound up finding the post in Vine and tweeting it out on Smidlein's behalf.
Shortly thereafter, an engineer at Twitter sent him a direct message asking politely if he would remove the post. "When a big engineer at Twitter asks you to take something down, you take it down," Smidlein said. But by then it was too late, as the Rickroll was already making its way around the internet. On Twitter he apologized repeatedly for making life difficult for Vine's engineers.
Hacks like these sometimes win software engineers posts at the very companies they're hacking. But Smidlein isn't available for that, at least for a while — starting in two weeks, he will be starting a summer internship at the read-it-later service Pocket. He's promising to write a full postmortem on the Rickroll once Vine is patched; in the meantime, he wrote a short post about the experience today. "I'm pretty happy with where I'm sitting right now," he told The Verge. "We'll see where it goes in the future."
Sorry, Twitter/Vine engineers. I tried to keep it quiet, but the internet never forgets.— Will Smidlein (@ws) June 3, 2013
I truly feel awful for the engineers whose day I ruined with my stupid messing around.— Will Smidlein (@ws) June 3, 2013