16-year-old developer "Rickrolls" Twitter's Vine app
Teen posted three-and-a-half-minute video to site that allows only 6-second clips
He removed the video at Twitter's request, but the Web already took notice
Rickrolling is a bait-and-switch joke spawned in 2007 on 4chan
Oh, Rickrolling. Even on Vine, Twitter’s app that lets users shoot and share six-second videos, the Web is never gonna give you up.
A Cleveland teen-ager hacked Vine on Monday, flouting the app’s strict time limit and uploading all 3 minutes, 33 seconds of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the ‘80s pop hit turned bait-and-switch Internet meme.
“I think I broke Vine,” 16-year-old Will Smidlein tweeted Monday night.
In his Twitter bio, Smidlein lists himself as a Web developer. Based on his ability to share the joys of Rick Astley with Vine’s 13 million users, it’s an apt description.
Vine became available for Google’s Android operating system on Monday. Smidlein, who had experience developing for Android, translated the app’s code into a readable format, then tinkered with parts of the program that lets users upload posts.
In an interview with tech-news site The Verge, Smidlein declined to say exactly how he bypassed the 6-second video limit and said he never meant for his prank to go public.
“Honestly, it was just for my friends and the people who follow me on Twitter and Vine,” he said.
Smidlein said he was quickly messaged by a Twitter engineer who asked him to take the video down. He did, but by then its viral run had begun.
“Sorry, Twitter/Vine engineers,” he wrote. “I tried to keep it quiet, but the internet never forgets.”
Twitter did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment for this story. Smidlein has said he’ll write more about what he did once the exploit is patched.
He apologized on the site several times to “the engineers whose day I ruined with my stupid messing around.”
But it sounds like he was being harder on himself than anyone else.
“Vine, you’re a bunch of bullies,” one reader posted on a Mashable article. “Your coding was weak and got exploited – and you aren’t thanking this kid for discovering that for you?? Kid, don’t apologize. It’s their job. They should be paying you.”
Another agreed. “What do I think?” she wrote. “I think Vine should hire him.”
Rickrolling started in 2007 as an in-joke on the anything-goes pages of 4chan and became an Internet phenomenon. Usually, a user will post a provocative looking link (Web lore says the first was supposedly a preview of the much-anticipated “Grand Theft Auto IV” video game) that instead – surprise! – takes Web surfers to Astley’s blue-eyed soul hit.
It has since reached unprecedented heights for Web memes. Astley’s video has received 64 million views on his official channel and another 68 million on a version titled “Rickroll’d” that was uploaded in 2007.
It was briefly the destination of every single YouTube video during a 2008 April Fool’s joke by Google and became an April 1 gag once again thanks to a bipartisan 2011 effort in the Oregon legislature.