Reddit is bringing back r/Place — a collaborative project where individual users can edit pixels on a giant canvas — at a time when users are still furious over things like Reddit’s API pricing that forced beloved third-party apps to shut down, the company’s decision to remove chat history from before 2023 with hardly any warning, and its recent announcement that it would be sunsetting the current system to give Reddit Gold. The 2023 version of r/Place kicks off on Thursday, July 20th.
As you might expect, users are already using the announcement post to air their grievances toward the company. The current top comment in reply to the post just says “fuck u/spez” (“spez” is CEO Steve Huffman’s Reddit username), and many of the other comments say only “API,” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that sentiment show up in some way on this year’s r/Place canvas.
I think even Reddit might be aware that the timing isn’t great. In a short announcement video, the company’s tagline for the event is “right place, wrong time.” In a different post, a Reddit admin (employee) shared a series of pushed dates for when r/Place would kick off — it was supposed to go live at the beginning of April but kept getting delayed:
- April 1st (the previous two r/Place events were April Fools’ Day events)
- Then April 20th, two days after Reddit first announced the API changes (but didn’t announce pricing)
- Then May 4th
- Then June 15th, which was in the thick of the subreddit blackouts and coincidentally became the same day we had a contentious interview with Huffman
- Then June 23rd, which was one week before apps were set to shut down
- And now, July 20th
Past r/Place experiments took place in 2017 and 2022. (Josh Wardle, who would later go on to create and then sell Wordle, thought up the idea for r/Place, according to Newsweek.) The final canvases for each (2017, 2022) are honestly fascinating pieces of work, with things like art, country flags, memes, and video game iconography all smashed together into colorful pixel collages.
For the 2023 edition, Reddit is letting subreddit moderators “pin” coordinates on the canvas to help community members more easily navigate to certain areas. While that does sound useful, I imagine some communities will use the feature to help focus their protest efforts. And sure enough, after I first published this story, I was informed of a subreddit (r/PlaceAPI) with a few hundred subscribers and an accompanying Discord where some users are already planning some protest art.
Reddit declined to comment. It’s unclear exactly how long this year’s version of r/Place will be open to contributions; the 2017 version took place over 72 hours, while the 2022 edition was made over four days.
By the way, this announcement helped me solve where the ugly pixelated Reddit app logo is from: you can see it in Reddit’s r/Place announcement video. For some reason, that video also includes pixelated images of a fire in a garbage can.
Update July 19th, 8:07PM ET: Added a link to a community where some users are already planning protest art.