Reddit officially launched the 2023 edition of its r/Place collaborative art project on Thursday morning, and it’s littered with messages protesting Reddit and Reddit’s CEO. You can see the current iteration of the canvas on the r/Place subreddit or by following the prompt at the top of the app. (Note that you can’t access r/Place on Old Reddit; you’ll need to be on New Reddit or one of the company’s mobile apps.)
In r/Place, individual users can drop a single pixel of color every five minutes on a huge canvas, including overriding other pixel placements if you want to try and claim some turf. In the utopian version of this idea, r/Place becomes an ever-changing piece of art where users work together to draw all sorts of pixelated images in one giant collage.
But the 2023 version of r/Place — which arrives on the heels of things like massive protests about the company’s API changes that priced out many third-party apps, its recent contentious relationship with mods, its decision to remove all chat history before this year with little warning, and its announcement that Reddit Gold as it’s currently known will be going away — has become a massive billboard for users to air their grievances.
See for yourself in Reddit’s official time lapse video.
In that video, you can see some of what I reported on in the first iteration of this article:
- There were many messages that just say “fuck spez,” referencing the Reddit username of CEO Steve Huffman. On the right side of the board, there was a section with some giant iterations of the phrase; if you zoomed in closely on other areas, you could see pockets where users wrote the words in smaller font.
- Near the middle, users wrote “fuck spez” with a bunch of black pixels around it that made it stand out.
- Near the top, surrounded by the colors of the German flag, users wrote “u/spez ist ein hurensohn,” which, according to Google Translate, translates to “u/spez is a son of a bitch.”
- One area promoted the Save3rdPartyApps community with a message that read “never forget what was stolen from us.”
If you want a slower look at the evolution of the project, I updated the below gallery with many screenshots on Thursday. If you want to zoom in on an image, click on the image itself. (I’ll try to keep this updated on Friday, but no guarantees!)
When I asked this morning if Reddit will remove the protesting messages, spokesperson Courtney Geesey-Dorr pointed to the r/Place canvas rules. One of those rules says that “targeted hate or harassment of private individuals (including mods and admin) and protected groups are violations of our [content] policy (Rule 1) and will be removed. In addition, posts, comments, and imagery that are hateful, graphic, sexually-explicit, and / or offensive are violations of our policy (Rule 6) and will be removed.”
Geesey-Dorr declined to specify when the r/Place canvas will close.
There is a lot of art that’s not protesting Reddit. When I first wrote this, a lot of the drawings were flags. There was a giant logo for the rhythm game osu!, and another section featured the word “DICKS” spelled out in a rainbow of colors.
But amid the more lighthearted fare, it’s been nearly impossible to miss the anger against Reddit that’s currently on the canvas. And with users actively planning protest designs — including in Reddit’s own post about the opening of r/Place — I imagine they’ll keep fighting to make their feelings known.
Update July 20th, 8:51PM ET: Added photos to the gallery.