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This is the most pointless website on the planet. It’s fantastic.

1 week ago 50

One Million Checkboxes has a vibe like Wordle — except it does not improve your mind in any way.

It’s a website with 1 million little boxes in a row. You click in a box to make a check mark, and now the box is checked for everyone who plays the game.

An odometer-like counter keeps track of how many boxes all game players have cumulatively checked. People love chaos, and they’re unchecking boxes as fast as others check them to watch the counter go backward.

If the world is making you jittery, the uncomplicated task of clicking boxes is the balm you deserve. It’s the same pleasure as popping bubble wrap.

The game — if it’s even a game? — proves technology is great at feeding our need for pointless joy. And it might only be temporary in its current form, like a beautiful bloom.

I made a website. it's called "one million checkboxes dot com". it has one million checkboxes on it.

checking a box checks it for everyone.

that's it. have fun! pic.twitter.com/KBF4UqCMJc

— nolen (@itseieio) June 26, 2024

One Million Checkboxes started about a week ago after a brainstorm between online game creator Nolen Royalty and Neal Agarwal. Royalty spent two days coding the website and hoped a few hundred people would try it.

Instead, One Million Checkboxes spread on sites like X, Mastodon and technology message board Hacker News. Royalty says he barely slept for days as roughly half a million players (and one online attack) kept crashing the website.

I spoke to Royalty about the unexpected allure of One Million Checkboxes, how you can win (can you?!) and all the weird things game players have tried. By the time you read this, the site might have reached 1 million checkboxes.

I don’t understand why I find One Million Checkboxes fun and soothing. Please explain.

Making a number go up is really fun!

This site gets at the same thing as the genre of “incremental” or “clicker” games where you just click to make a number go up. (Try Cookie Clicker or Universal Paperclips.) You have an uncomplicated goal and an uncomplicated way of accomplishing your goal.

You know how people talk about adding something to their to do list so that they can cross it off? It’s like that.

Even you have called One Million Checkboxes “the dumbest website of all time.” Why did you do this?

The internet should have more dumb little websites! The internet should be fun! What’s it all for otherwise?

How many people have played One Million Checkboxes so far?

I think around 500,000 people. They’ve checked or unchecked boxes roughly 200 million times.

I didn’t expect the site to be very popular. I was going to be happy if I got 500 people to use it. So I cut some corners to build it quickly.

What has gone wrong?

A whole lot! I slept for about seven hours total between launching on Wednesday and Friday night as I frantically spun up more servers and updated the code to support the crazy usage.

My friend Eliot helped me rewrite the website on Sunday night. Then there was a distributed denial of service attack and the game went offline temporarily.

What strategies are people using to check boxes?

The most checked box is box No. 1 by far, followed by the colored boxes that are visible when you first load the page.

Lots of people seem to scroll to a less busy area and try to fill every box on screen. Other people seem to uncheck any box they see someone else check.

And lots of people try to find a quiet space and draw something! I’ve gotten pictures of hearts, names, messages and other images that I’m sure you can guess.

Why is unchecking boxes a thing? All the unchecking is making it hard to reach 1 million checked boxes.

I’ve often said that what’s missing from croquet is the ability to whack the ball of anyone else in the world currently playing croquet. My site fixes that.

How many boxes would someone need to check to be the top box checker? And what do I win if it’s me?

The top box checkers have checked (and unchecked) tens of millions of boxes. I’m gonna guess that they’re bots.

But folks have sent me screenshots with tens of thousands of boxes checked, which is pretty crazy! Those might be legit.

Maybe the prize should go to the person to check the one millionth box?

Wait, people are using bots like they’re hoarding Taylor Swift tickets?

Yes, to fill in as many boxes as they can, to uncheck as many boxes as they can, to make interesting patterns and to animate things on the site.

Some people have told me this is ruining the experience for them and I’m sorry for that. I’m thinking a bit about how to curtail the bots, but I think it’s best to treat them as part of the experiment and experience.

How much does it cost you to run One Million Checkboxes?

It’s costing me something like $60 or $70 a day. This has been the most fun I’ve ever had, but the idea of spending $60 a day in perpetuity is not great.

How long will you keep this going? Is this like Wordle and you’ll sell your game to the New York Times?

Hello, the New York Times: If you’re reading this, I will sell you the site for one dollar per checkbox. (The New York Times declined to comment.)

I’m thinking about what’s next. This version of One Million Checkboxes might be temporary.

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