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Five million stickers later, Canvas gets real

The image board is one year old—and it's now providing a real-time look at how Internet users see the news. The Daily Dot is there to cover it.


Fernando Alfonso III

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 31, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 10:03 pm CDT

When Christopher Poole launched social image board Canvas one year ago today, everyone wondered if it could achieve the same amount of popularity as Poole’s first effort, the raucous, unruly 4chan.

On the occasion of Canvas’s first anniversary, the Daily Dot spoke to Canvas product manager Nick Barr, 26, one of six employees at the fledgling startup. Canvas’s success to date, Barr said, should erase any doubt—and he shared statistics to back up his claim.

In the last year, Canvas has collected more than one million posts from image junkies who would much rather express themselves with illustrations than with words.

And on those posts, Canvas’s estimated 77,000 monthly users have placed about 5 million stickers—a social gesture specific to Canvas that’s more nuanced than Facebook’s Like button or Twitter’s retweet.

By tracking what people post and how they sticker it, Barr argued in an interview with the Daily Dot, you get insight into what’s on the Internet’s mind.

“Canvas’s zeitgeist capability is unique,” he said. “The engagement level is crazy.”

Last December, Canvas’s staff moved into new offices near New York’s Union Square after a year spent constantly upgrading the site. Some of the more memorable features included the ability to add audio to a GIF animation and to easily search Google to see where an image came from. Canvas also released more than a dozen limited-edition stickers for holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween.

The popularity of an image is determined by the number of stickers it has received. Each user has eight unlimited stickers that include a heart, smiley face, and cookie. Frequent visitors get special-edition stickers that bear more prestige. The more stickers a post receives the higher likelihood it has of reaching Canvas’s front page.

Canvas also allows users to upload photos and alter them using editing tools built into the site. Users can also remix (in other words, alter) existing images on the site by adding text, for example.

One of of the sites most popular posts over the last year was Canvas’s official drawing contest, which collected more than 100 original illustrations.

“It was a blast,” Barr said. “This idea of remixing is just a fascinating thing that nobody really owns right now. There’s such a clear demand for it and it’s exciting to be on the forefront of that.”

Over the last five months, the Daily Dot has covered Canvas, its growing subcommunities, and its meme-obsessed users. In our weekly column called Stretching the Canvas we provided users with updates on the site and links to its most popular images.

But that hasn’t been enough.

Canvas has proven to be a fast-paced community where people visually respond to real-world events in real time.

Starting Wednesday, we will be launching a daily Canvas column featuring news and observations from the site’s community, giving an analytical take on how they view the world through the images they collect and create.

Canvas’s second year should be even more exciting to cover than its first.

Illustration by photocopier

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*First Published: Jan 31, 2012, 5:30 pm CST