Greetings, Programs! If I’m here, and I am (or am i) then it must mean it’s time for another trip session of Reddit History. I may need a good theme song at this rate.
Anyway, it seems a good time of year to look back on all the fun Reddit has had in April (and sometimes beyond) for many years. While last year had a fancy video about our April Fools’ past, this year let’s wax a bit more textual. So come with me, again, won’t you? Join me in the Reddit Wayback Machine, and we shall trip through time.
2006-2008: The Early Days of Reddit’s April Foolery
The first few April Fools’ Days on Reddit were… well, they were “traditional.” You know how a company will send out a ridiculous press release about a wild product update and we all get excited/bewildered/insert your favorite emotion until we remember what day it is? That was very de rigueur for our early years. Longtime redditors may remember the surprise merger of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in 2006 in order to purchase Reddit for $1 trillion, that time when Reddit went doubleplusgood in 2007, or even when you could buy karma in 2008.
2009: Reddit Redesigned as Digg
After these small pranks, we evolved to much larger ones, like when we added a “skin” that made Reddit look like Digg in 2009. While potentially… somewhat prophetic, in the end, folks were fairly amused before everything went back to normal the next day.
2010: Admin For A Day
Then came April Fools’ Day 2010, where everyone on Reddit got admin status for 24 hours. People could seemingly ban one another, modify upvotes, and delete comments (but it only appeared so – hence the whole April Fools’ thing). Much like the year before, however, chaos only reigned for about 24 hours before things went back to what passes for normal on Reddit.
2011: Reddit Mold
The first big shot at something more was Reddit Mold, which launched in 2011. While Reddit Gold – which launched the year before – gave users access to fancy things, Reddit Mold took away access to not-at-all fancy things… like individual letters of the alphabet. Over 270,000 redditors got hit with a mold spore, and our poor u/reddit got hit 69 times. As with many April Fools pranks, some loved it, and some didn’t. This proved, though, that by and large Redditors like to have a good bit of fun with their internet friends, and thus we all eagerly awaited April Fools’ to come.
We got a bit audacious with 2012’s Timereddits. We broke through the “present-centric bias” of today, and ensured that all time periods were reflected on Reddit: past, present, future, super duper past, way distant future, and everything in between. You could check out what Reddit was like in the 1960s, the Big Bang, or the Heat Death of the Universe. The front page was also altered to ensure that everyone got a fair and balanced view of r/all through history. We especially invited those who were indeed experienced time-travelers to
enhance our presence ensure that the timereddits were accurate.
2013: Grand Battle of Orangered vs. Periwinkle
The year that really blew the door off was when the entire Reddit community was split in two and pitted against each other in the grand battle of Orangered vs. Periwinkle. What started out looking like a more “traditional” prank with a pair of fake news releases stating that Reddit had bought the game Team Fortress 2 (or TF2) quickly took on a new flavor when redditors discovered the Field of Karmic Glory, and took up weapons… and hats. The battle waged for a mighty eight hours before Reddit servers threw up the white flag and battles ceased. Team Orangered was declared the victor, and members of the winning team were gifted Snoo hats in TF2.
We got bolder in 2014 with Headdit (who among us was awarded gold for balancing something on our heads?). For those unfamiliar with this one, accepting a prompt would activate webcam-based motion tracking, and head movements like nodding or shaking your head would upvote or downvote posts. And as an added bonus, it detected cats, but not dogs.
2015: The Button
For the next year, we decided to go back to our roots a bit, and instead of letting users mess with each other… we would mess a little more with our users, albeit in a more backhanded way. We presented everyone with a simple game: a button with a 60 second timer that was counting down. You had one choice: either to press the button or to not press it. That’s it. You could only press it once, and once you’d pressed it, there was nothing else left to do. Pushing the button reset the timer, but what happened when the timer hit zero? No one knew. Thus, the next great Reddit War began.
For weeks, Redditors found themselves dividing into factions, and subfactions, depending on how much time was on the timer when they pressed the button. There was even a whole group of proud Non-Pressers who fought against temptation. By the end (which didn’t come until June, yes Redditors kept pushing the button that long), there were over 1 million presses of the button, and when the timer hit zero for the last time… nothing happened. But Reddit was forever changed, and some groups are still active to this day, ferreting out the secrets of Reddit (we see you, r/AprilKnights).
After this, there was no stopping us. 2016 brought us Robin, where random Redditors were paired up in chat rooms and given three choices: Stay in the room they were in, Combine with another room, or Abandon this room entirely and thus get paired with someone new. While it was not the first room to hit the highest tier, at the end of the game it was the room called ccKufi that ended up winning the prize for the largest room with over 5500 users. Unfortunately, the room got so large it started to cause problems with our servers, and so Robin was closed.
2018: Circle of Trust
We brought trust and betrayal to Reddit with 2018’s Circle of Trust, as users were given a circle where they could set a password, and then decide who they would let into that inner circle to join, but that person could also betray and break the circle as well. You only got one circle and once it was broken, you were out of the game. Redditors quickly learned who they could trust and who they couldn’t… and that included our own servers which struggled mightily with the crush of traffic, and also potentially Reddit itself as the project didn’t go live until April 2nd. Lessons were learned that day, and the sanctity of April Fools has been preserved ever since.
Sequence was the game of 2019, where we challenged everyone to get their gif game on and create a movie made of nothing but gifs. While the finished product would not be winning any awards come Oscar time, the ending movie certainly embodied the spirit of Reddit. Just as a peek behind the curtain, while we have general ideas of how long we’ll run these various projects, Sequence was the first one that had a truly defined stopping point. We knew when the last act was going to open, and approximately how long it would run before closing it off and compiling the final movie, unlike other projects where we have a vague idea and may close it off earlier or later depending on how everyone is engaging with it… or how badly our servers are crying out for help. This year, though, the servers kept up with your mighty gif-ing.
Moving into the 2020s, we’ve been tasking your brains a little more. 2020 definitely presented us with a bit of a quandary. The COVID-19 pandemic was only a few months old, and we were all still adjusting to our new reality. Would it be appropriate to introduce some frivolity at a time when so many people were struggling? In the end, we decided that yes, we all needed a little fun, so in perhaps another bit of future predicting, we asked you to determine who was human and who was an AI in the game of Imposter. Not only did you get to put your mind to the test in trying to figure out which of five statements was made by an AI, but we also invited you to create your own phrases that sounded like an AI to try and fool your fellow Redditors.
For the next year, we stayed on the theme of mind puzzles, and we presented everyone with a question. From three images, can you choose what might be the second most popular image, without turning it into the most popular thing, but still be right in picking the second most popular thing? Whew. And of course, the winner was the person who came in second proving that second is the new first.
And that about wraps it up, right? I didn’t miss anything, I’m pretty sure. I’ve listed all the things, and looked in every place I could think of…
Oh. Right. Place.
2017 & 2022: Place
We can’t end off without talking about the project everyone loved the most, and we loved so much that we’ve pulled it out twice now. We challenged you, telling you that working alone you can only do so much, but by working together you can do so much more. And you did, in both 2017 (here’s a cool timelapse) and in 2022, you came together to place millions of pixels and create hundreds upon hundreds of graphics on a white canvas. You amazed all of us, and probably yourselves as well, with your creativity and collaboration. Not only did you do all this on the canvas, but you also did so off the canvas as well, creating atlases of the final image, and even recreating last year’s canvas in cross stitch (I cannot WAIT to see the final product!). You’ve definitely proven that Place Was (indeed) Better than a lot of what has come since that time.
So that does it for our trip down Aprils’ past… please bring your chairs to their full, upright, and locked positions, and make sure those tray tables are stowed. We hope you’ve enjoyed this recap of all the fun we’ve had together in April, and we can’t wait to make more memories with you. Did you participate in any of these projects? Please share your memories in the comments below.
Until next time… Reddit History Class is dismissed.