On April 1st, Reddit launched a new page: The Button. It was paired with a countdown timer. 60 seconds. If anyone anywhere on Earth pressed it, the timer would reset. For two months, the timer never hit zero.
So, what happened? Simple: nobody pressed The Button for a full 60 seconds. And then... ? Nothing. It just stopped.
After two months of people watching obsessively, trolling, forming religious factions, creating resources and/or traps, getting married, and maybe getting divorced (among too many other things to count), the game/social experiment/Internet-est thing to happen on the Internet came screeching to a halt.
Or at least, that’s how Reddit’s telling it. Somehow, they claim, the bustling e-civilization surrounding The Button—formed almost overnight as people gathered in
hushed incredibly talkative awe, wondering what The Button would do if pressed too much or not pressed enough or pressed just right (awww yeah)—crumbled. Or perhaps more aptly, a tiny crack formed in one of its walls, and that’s all it took.
One last person pressed The Button, and that was it. Reddit explained:
Who was the last redditor to press the button? “The pressiah,” as the /r/thebutton community decided they would be called, whose coming would signal freedom from tyranny or the end of existence, depending on who you asked. At 2015-06-05T21:49:53.069000, a humble user named/u/BigGoron pressed the button. It was never pressed again.
Which is technically accurate, but Reddit’s blog post doesn’t answer a crucial question: why? Why did this concerted effort to press The Button until the end of man’s dominion over Earth suddenly fail? Especially after forming into a what seemed to be a well-oiled, self-sustaining engine?
The short version, it seems, is that pro-Button users were undone by a single rule: nobody with an account made after The Button page went live on April 1st could press The Button.
The long version is... complicated. But basically, Redditors from the Knights of the Button faction obtained thousands of Reddit accounts that they dubbed “zombies,” and one failed. These Reddit accounts had been “shadowbanned”—turning their activity invisible to all other users—and then abandoned. Knights members, however, realized that the accounts could still press The Button, even if they couldn’t gloat about it afterward.
One member of Knights, /u/mncke, created a literal (at least, as literal as you can get in a virtual space) robot zombie army by automating zombie accounts to press The Button. Unbeknownst to them, one account in their precious zombie army was actually created after The Button erupted like an impossible-to-ignore mole on Reddit’s face. Predictably, that one tried to press The Button, and... *muffled fart noise* nothing happened. The Button-pressing machine might have been well-oiled, but it wasn’t as well-built as it could’ve been.
So there you go. That’s the end of The Button. While it lasted, it gave people a big, silly game to bond, battle, and obsess over. People created so much stuff around this dumb, wonderful thing. More than 50 subreddits dedicated to various factions, a colossal wiki, feuds, friendships, mythos, and of course, a million-billion injokes and memes. Sounds like it was a hell of a ride while it lasted, and it was all over whether or not to press a button. To think, it could’ve ended 60 seconds after it started. The ending we got instead, while a bit anticlimactic, still has a great story to it. And hey, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been a giant advertisement for Godus.