Getting people to add “STOP SOPA” banners to their Twitter and Facebook profile photos was more than just a message about pending legislation.

The banners, which swept the Internet in recent days, allowed people to quickly signal opposition to the antipiracy bills known as PIPA and SOPA, which many critics say are too broad. They are the brainchild of Greg Hochmuth, an engineer at photo site Instagram, and former Google product manager Hunter Walk, who created the site blackoutsopa.org.

“Profile pictures are becoming more and more omnipresent in our interface-heavy lives,” Hochmuth told Reuters in an email. “We thought: why not let people take more ownership of these pixels?” He envisions people using similar banners in the future, to get out all kinds of messages.

Between the time the site went live Jan. 9 and now, the site has attracted 80,000 users. Yesterday, at the height of the anti-SOPA blackouts that took sites like Wikipedia dark, about 30 people were changing their profile pictures every minute, Hochmuth said.

“BlackoutSOPA was so successful in large part because it took users only a few clicks to join & then spread the message,” he said. ”Changing your profile picture by yourself is a relatively arduous task otherwise. ”