The 'April Fools' joke that created the largest collaborative art project in history

There is an empty canvas.
You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another.
Individually you can create something.
Together you can create something more.

It simply started as a 1000 v 1000 blank canvas of pixels. Every 5 minutes someone could change the colour of a pixel. Place was an experiment on Reddit to examine human interaction at scale launched on April fool’s day and was live for 72 hours.

As you can image it started off as a chaotic mishmash of colours and patterns but quite quickly, clans started to form and people realised that if they worked together they would be able to produce something greater.

In just 72 hours, over a million redditors placed 16.5 million tiles to transform a simple, white, 1000×1000-pixel canvas into a surprisingly beautiful clash of communities, nations, ideologies, and fandoms.
— Josh Wardle & Justin Bassett (Looking Back at r/Place)

As you can see from the image below Place started out with just spots of colours, but soon mega structures emerged, blocks of colours such as the blue corner emerged, the rainbow road and some internet memes became clearly distinguishable.

Eventually pieces of art started to emerge. Place was no longer about random colour changes and blocks of colour, it was a canvas of great expression, including everything from the Mona Lisa to He-Man. At first glance it still looks like a chaotic collage of randomness, but you can actually zoom in and explore what was created.

There was even a working QR code created that took you to a YouTube video of Rick Astley’s 1987 classic ‘Never Gunna Give You Up!’

As with anything that involves large numbers of people it wasn’t always peaceful, wars started springing up, some ‘players’ believed some clans to occupy too much space so they set out to grab some turf for themselves. Alliances were formed and players flocked together to protect certain pieces of art that they deemed worthy. An entity called The Void began to develop, a group of people intent on turning the canvas black – the final void can be seen in the image below.

Reddit has also released the data so you can watch Place develop over time if you wish! And some clever people have made a VR version.

You can explore the final canvas here

The canvas is now locked and preserved for all to view and enjoy. I could spend hours exploring this canvas and how it developed. It shows that collectively we can create wonderful things and people can come together from all walks of life to experiment and play together.

There are rumours that Reddit will do something similar for a couple of days every year, cleverly ensuring the experience doesn’t get stale and that there is pent up demand.

This experiment seems to have certainly ignited peoples passion and some redditors are even documenting the history of Place or creating physical objects such as 1500 piece jigsaws of the final canvas... good luck doing that one!

Take a look for yourself: