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tl;dr (abbreviation for too long; didn’t read) is an internet slang expression commonly used in discussion forums as a shorthand response to previous posts that are deemed unnecessarily long and extensive. Due to its indiscriminate usage by many, tl;dr is frequently considered as spam or meaningless replies by both those unaware of the term and those who are familiar with the meaning.
It’s not entirely clear where and when tl;dr first began, but the first Urban Dictionary entry was submitted on January 15th, 2003:
“Too long; didn’t read.”
“OMG LOOK AT ME I AM THE MASTAR OF TEH INTARNET!!! ONE TIME I WAS AT THIS PLACE ON THIS WEBSITE AND IT WAS PORNOS WITH GIRLS NAKED1!1!
SO IN CONCLUSION I RULE!”
tl;dr has been adopted into common usage on discussion forums like General Mayhem, 4chan, SomethingAwful and FARK since at least 2003, with the earliest known instance dating back to a discussion thread posted by GenMay user “waptang” on June 19th, 2003.
Another Urban Dictionary entry submitted on November 20th, 2003 was later chosen as UD’s Word of the Day on May 16th, 2005. The Google Insights graph for the term indicates a noticeable spike in search interest circa 2006.
The Wikipedia essay article for tl;dr was first submitted on September 18th, 2007, suggesting its widespread usage among Wikipedia editors. Reddit’s /tldr/ subsection, a daily round-up of Reddit’s most notable threads, was launched by poweruser qgyh2 on November 14th, 2009.
Most of the time, tl;dr is used to call out another user on the length of their post. However, in cases of more courteous exchanges and serious discussions, tl;dr can be self-invoked by the original poster as a disclaimer to the readers. It is then paired with a brief summary of the longer original text.
Image macros of teal deers are sometimes used in place of tl;dr, due to it sounding close to “tee el dee are.”