For years the internet has speculated about the identity of Dril, the iconic Twitter user known for his absurdist humor and prescient tweets. No one would have guessed, however, that it would be fans of an 8,000-page comic who would get to the bottom of this notorious internet mystery.
Dril is not just another anonymous Twitter joke account. He is the public face of Weird Twitter, who’s become famous for his insane non sequiturs that speak to the core of humanity. His account has amassed nearly 900,000 followers and was declared “the single most worthwhile account on Twitter” by College Humor.
Dril’s tweets regularly amass thousands of retweets and his work has been aggregated on any mainstream viral media site you can think of.
“Twitter, as I understand it, is a sort of ‘Hell’ that I was banished to upon death in my previous life,” he joked to BuzzFeed in 2013.
And since tweets by Dril’s often account served as a respite to the “sort of Hell” Twitter can often serve up to users, the reveal of his identity caused instant uproar among many of his fans on the web when it went viral on Friday.
The fear that a beloved account would be exposed and shut down reminded many users of the famous @Horse_ebooks disclosure in 2013, when it was revealed that a perceived Twitter spambot known for its accidentally timely tweets was actually run by humans.
Dril has provided nothing but joy to his legion of followers for over a decade, only asking for anonymity in return. To many on Twitter, it seemed wildly unfair that he should be doxxed and shamed off the internet by an obscure webcomic fan community.
So why did a comic with an insular, sometimes incomprehensible fanbase reveal the secret of Dril that nobody wanted to know?
Because they believe Dril may have been one of them.
Homestuck is a webcomic born out of another webcomic called MS Paint Adventures. The comic centers around a group of kids who potentially bring about the end of the world by installing a beta copy of a computer game. This is an overly simplistic description and doesn’t completely get what the comic is about, but there are so many nuances and plot variances that trying to untangle them in any coherent fashion is almost impossible.
A 2012 Kickstarter described the comic as, “A story about some kids who are friends over the internet. They decide to play a game together. There are major consequences. Saying anything more about the plot would probably be getting in too deep. It gets fairly complicated.”
“You can get about as far as ‘the kids get stuck in a game’ before it becomes incredibly difficult to describe what is happening to them,” Kotaku writer Gita Jackson wrote in a 2017 Homestuck retrospective. “They discover dream worlds, fight villains who can stop time, meet gray-skinned alien trolls, discover they’re all related kinda, die and are resurrected. As the comic goes on it becomes exponentially more complex, to the point that even a lot of fans don’t really understand all of it.”
The most important thing to understand about the comic is that it has a rabid online fandom. There are over 44,000 Homestuck fanfics on fanfiction website Archive of our Own and a thriving community of hundreds of blogs dedicated to the comic on Tumblr.
Because of the fact that the comic is so complex and generally inaccessible to the even novice internet lurkers, Homestuck fans are frequently mocked. A lot of characters in the Homestuck universe have various sexual identities and the comic is popular with people who like shipping, or hypothetically pairing up different characters. “The whole thing is sort of set up just for people to ship and is all about polyamory,” one Twitter user said.
That said, Homestuck fans really love Homestuck. So much so, that they were really excited when Hiveswap, a game that takes place in the Homestuck universe, was partially released in September 2017. Fans picked apart every aspect of the game on sites like Reddit and Tumblr when one particular Homestuck fan noticed a name the user believed to be Dril’s on the Hiveswap game credits screen.
The connection between that name in the credits and Dril is tenuous, but there are a few clues that Homestuck fans found telling.
According to Tumblr user not-terezi-pyrope, a 2014 Tumblr reblog from someone claiming to know Dril offline referred to him as “Paul,” the first name of the person in the credits.
Jacob Bakkila, a writer behind the wildly popular @Horse_ebooks Twitter account, also claimed to know Dril offline. He said Dril had hired him for a project once and the two had become friends. Bakkila also said that Dril had contributed to the Horse_ebooks sequel, an adventure game called Bear Stearns Bravo.
Sometime between 2014 and 2017 a Tumblr user unearthed the LinkedIn account of the Paul named in the credits who claimed to have contributed to Bear Stearns Bravo—presumably the same “Paul” who was listed on the Hiveswap credits screen.
And, according to the Homestuck fan sites, there’s more.
One of the only 205 accounts Dril follows on Twitter is Cohen Edenfield, Hiveswap’s lead writer.
And “there are further connections, as well, to do with old accounts and comparisons of artwork, etc. I’m not up to scratch on the precise details of that,” user not-terezi-pyrope wrote on Tumblr. “Also, I spoke to somebody who did audio effects work for Hiveswap shortly after the Act 1 release, and while they seemed to not be entirely privy to the details they also brought up a connection.”
News of the Dril-Homestuck connection spread like wildfire through the fandom community back in September and there’s an entire Reddit thread dedicated to discussing Dril’s identity and role in the game.
But since the Homestuck fandom is relatively closed off from average internet and Twitter users, Dril’s “doxxing” failed to reach the wider internet until a few subtweets on Thursday afternoon followed by Twitter user @thrdplanet tweeting about the outing Friday morning.
“I cannot believe the homestuck fandom cracked the identity of dril 2017 is truly a cursed timeline.”
ThrdPlanet’s Tweet quickly went viral, and she experienced almost immediate backlash from Dril fans.
“i dont want to know who he is i dont want to know what he looks like i will not let you guys ruin the last good thing on this website protect dril, respect dril, leave dril alone thank you,” one fan tweeted. “look just because we might have found the corporeal manifestation of dril at this point in history doesn’t mean we know who dril is… also anyone trying to find out dril’s identity is a fucking cop,” another user said.
@thrdplanet deleted her tweets, and after being bombarded with criticism tweeted again, “Y’all realize this isn’t a confirmed solid legit info on who he is right. Y’all also realize if he really never wanted to be found out he could have been credited under a pseudonym right. He wouldn’t have his work dril has been named as writing for on his LinkedIn right?”
The very process of “doxxing” someone’s personal identity online is fraught. At the end of the day, the connections between Dril and whoever “Paul” is are tenuous at best. And even if Dril is a graphic designer in the New York City metro area, as has been previously speculated, does any of that take away from his work?
It’s understandable that fans would feel a protective rage that Homestuck fandom sleuths were coming for what so many consider the last pure Twitter account on the internet. Dril himself has not acknowledged the controversy today or two months ago when it was revealed on Tumblr.
It’s worth noting that his “doxxing” didn’t appear to be malicious.
“I’m posting this here,” Reddit user Fraven wrote after “revealing” Dril’s identity on the platform, “with the benign purpose of getting some special appreciation for the game’s (Hiveswap) great staff of writers and the talent within it.”
Other Twitter users remained resilient in the face of potentially losing one of their most beloved comrades.
One user suggested that over the weekend all Dril supporters change their Twitter name to “I am dril” in solidarity. Another said, “its the weekend baby. You know what that means. its time to drink precisely one beer and not dox dril.”
“Who is john dril?” joked someone else.
“I’m about to dox dril,” another tweeted, “okay here goes: the real dril is all the friends we made along the way.”