Reddit’s big April Fools’ trick last year was a so-called “time machine,” which let you browse through a hypothetical Reddit front page during great events of the past or future.
Now that time machine has become a reality. (Well, except for the future part.)
Redditor Deimorz may be the site’s greatest public servant. Nobody elected him to be its commissioner of awesome projects; he’s just kind of taken the role on himself. Among Deimorz’s greatest accomplishments include a robot moderator, which helps his human colleagues with time-consuming janitorial work, and Stattit.com, an addictive and valuable statistics site that tracks Reddit’s busiest subreddits and moderators.
But his latest project may be the most fun. The time machine is a Reddit version of the moldy box in your attic where you’ve stacked all those newspaper front pages over the years. Want to see what Reddit looked like when Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election? You can do that. Or how about the day Steve Jobs died? Not a problem.
Reddit launched in June, 2005 and the time machine lets you search all the way back to July 1, 2005. Not bad.
There’s one small caveat, however: Reddit’s front page is a flexible thing. When you’re logged in, the front page shows the top posts in the subreddits you subscribe to. The time machine can’t quite replicate that. What it can do, however, is look at r/all on any given day. That’s the catch-all subreddit that includes links from every section of the site, and is the best approximation by far of the top posts on Reddit at any given time.
The front pages of Reddit and the New York Times are a world apart. What hits the top of Reddit tells you more about the social news site’s population than it does about what was happening in the world at the time.
So the time machine doesn’t really have much practical purpose, except as a way to settle the longest-running argument on any Web forum: “I'm hoping it'll be especially good at pulling out for the ‘this subreddit was so much better 2 years ago" arguments,’” Deimorz quipped.
We ran a few dates through this Deimorz Delorean. Check it out.
The 2008 presidential election
Steve Jobs’ death
The Lehman Brothers collapse
Michael Jackson’s death
r/all on this date four years ago
r/all on the same date in 2012. Notice the preponderance of images compared to four years ago.
Photo by AntToeKnee/Flickr