Lessons Learned from r/place

By Molly Morrison

/r/place or Place is an interactive forum hosted on the social networking site Reddit that allows its users to draw on a blank white canvas by placing a square tile, available in 16 available colors and dispensed every five minutes, on its surface. Launched as an April Fools’ Day event in 2017, the novelty subreddit quickly grew into a social experiment involving tens of thousands of members on the site over the course of its 64-hour run. On April Fools’ Day 2022, /r/place was brought back for a second time on Reddit.

On April 1st, 2017, Reddit introduced /r/place, an experimental subreddit comprised of an HTML5-based 1000 × 1000 white canvas on which any member of the site who registered before March 31st could “draw” by placing a colored tile square in a 10-minute interval, in the similar vein of the long-running online canvas community Drawball. By 3 p.m. on April 1st, 2017, the subreddit gained 86,000 subscribers. By the end of the event, they had more than 220,000 subscribers.

The canvas evolves as fandoms and cultural relevancies compete for digital real estate before the edits are closed. Back in 2017, its founder, Josh Wardle (founder of Wordle, ever heard of it?) called r/Place “a screenshot of the Internet at this moment in time.” In their April 7th r/place recap, Reddit shared a trove of statistics like which country placed the most tiles or which subs talked about r/Place the most alongside an entire CSV dataset for anyone to access. As a marketer, this type of creative public forum is ripe with insights into user engagement and audience behavior.

Highlights from their report showed that 2022’s r/place was one of the most visited subreddits in the site’s history. 10.4 million users added more than 160+ million tiles over 4 days. That accumulated to 4.0 billion minutes spent in r/place over 4 days from 236 countries. The US had the most active participants, closely followed by Turkey, France, and the UK.

From Rembrandt replicas and BTS creations to iconic French monuments and streamer wars, r/place’s reemergence had many memorable moments where communities, nations, and fandoms gathered together over the course of four days to create, cooperate, alter, and meme on what they consider the world’s largest collaborative online digital canvas. Reddit also shared a complete timelapse of r/place so that anyone can go back and watch the canvas evolve.

For brands, r/place shows us the collaborative nature of online communities. This year’s iteration of r/place, in contrast to the previous version, demonstrates the interconnectivity of communities in digital spaces. No longer is r/place solely reserved for Reddit users. Now, there is clear power in drawing on communities distributed across Twitch, Discord and Twitter. R/place also reveals an underlying challenge every social media site encounters: instead of being a democratic representation of online communities and their art, many argue that streamers or influencers with bigger followings are able to influence the final product with much more ease.

Smaller communities are driven out at the expense of larger influencers with more bargaining power in this pixel warfare. It is not just individuals taking part in this art project. Many believe “bots” are running rampant, performing automated tasks in a way that is antithetical to the idea of this artwork as a representation of human achievement as opposed to technical prowess. Speculation about bots has also been a growing pain on other social media platforms, creating a bigger uphill battle for individual or independent creators. As r/place’s founder previously mentioned, the canvas often becomes a digital fingerprint about the state of the internet.

At its best, r/place is a powerful illustration of strangers coming together about their passions online and the collaborative nature of the internet. At its worst, it represents much of what we have come to dislike about the internet: the exclusion of smaller voices at the expense of influencer cultures, factions between communities, and the toxicity of some cybercultures. For brands and other social media sites, perhaps the biggest insight revealed by r/place is the need for collaborative online spaces that give freedom back to the users through organic engagement.


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KYM Insights brings timely knowledge to marketers, creatives, analysts & anyone engaging with internet culture to maximize your brand’s efforts online.

Know Your Meme Insights

KYM Insights brings timely knowledge to marketers, creatives, analysts & anyone engaging with internet culture to maximize your brand’s efforts online.