16-Year-Old Web Developer’s Rickroll Crashes Vine App

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Photo by Stefen Chow/Getty Images

Photo by Stefen Chow/Getty Images

E.J. Judge
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One of the Internet’s most well-known pranks made headlines yesterday when a 16-year-old web developer’s innocent prank went semi-viral. Will Smidlein, of Cleveland, Ohio, managed to circumvent Vine’s six-second video-limit on the app’s recently released version for Android, uploading the full three-plus minutes of Rick Astley‘s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Twitter announced the long-awaited release of the popular video app for Android on Monday (June 3), which allows the user to record six-second videos and utilizes quick cuts and edits with just the tap of the screen.

Smidlein shared the Vine on Twitter, but it was soon taken down per the request of an engineer at Twitter. “When a big engineer at Twitter asks you to take something down, you take it down,” Smidlein told tech news outlet The Verge. Despite deleting the post, the news continued to spread across the Internet. “I did my best to stop it, but once something is on the internet, it’s there for good,” Smidlein mentioned on his own blog.

Smidlein, who has experience developing for Android, revealed a portion of his process for uploading the video to The Verge, but declined to share full details of the hack until the Vine app is patched.

The 16-year-old web developer has apologized repeatedly, both on Twitter, stating, “Sorry, Twitter/Vine engineers. I tried to keep it quiet, but the internet never forgets,”;  and also on his blog, “… think of the dude who forgot a final check on his codebase before uploading, because I’ve been that guy. It sucks to have the whole internet laughing at your mistake, and I hate that I’ve done that.”

For those unfamiliar, “Rickrolling” is a meme that supposedly first surfaced in 2008 as a variant to the prank “duckrolling.” In both scenarios, the gag is essentially a bait-and-switch: a link to an aforementioned article or news photo is replaced with an edited photo of a duck on wheels, or in the case of “Rickrolling,” the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Astley stated, during the prank’s emerging popularity in 2008 that he finds it to be “brilliant,” but his “main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”


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