3 of My Favourite YouTube Video Easter Eggs
Content creators, YouTube and the community have pulled off some fun Easter eggs over the years
I love YouTube — I cannot remember the last time I went a full day without visiting the site. I’m sure you will know YouTube is the largest video-sharing site on the internet by a wide margin. At the scale, YouTube has reached, there is scope to introduce some fun hidden Easter eggs here and there. YouTube has previously implemented hidden features that change the way the site itself behaves. At one point, if you typed in “Doge Meme” into the search bar, the results would transform into the comic sans colored font associated with the popular meme — you could also play a game of Snake by pressing a key combo. Largely, these hidden features have been phased out over time. In this article, I don’t want to focus on these types of hidden features. I want to talk about the more subtle Easter eggs applied to actual videos either by YouTube, the community, or the creators. These types of Easter eggs are rare and I only know of the following three — fortunately, they are a lot of fun. Let’s start with a community enabled Easter egg.
I have no strong feelings, one way or the other
Futurama is an animated show about a delivery boy who finds himself transported 1000 years into the future. Its a sci-fi comedy, and there are the classic tropes you’d expect from that genre. One of the race of aliens in the show is called the Neutrals — the joke is they are indifferent to just about any situation or person. In 2009, a clip appeared on YouTube of the Neutral President reacting to a new space station — “I have no strong feelings, one way or the other”, he said. Apparently, the Futurama fan community love the Neutrals’ whole schtick because the clip has garnered almost 10 million views. The incredible Easter egg here is that somehow, people have coordinated to give the YouTube clip a perfectly neutral like/dislike ratio — 518K likes, 518K dislikes. I am always blown away by this hilarious feat the community has pulled off because it is tough to get 1 million people on the internet to do a thing to achieve something so cool. As far as I’m aware, there was no coordinated effort either — it was just a spontaneous occurrence from fans of the show. I’m even more surprised that there hasn’t been a successful effort to disrupt the ratio since it’s been achieved. I am fairly sure that the like/dislike ratio is purely being maintained by the audience — every time I revisit the video the numbers will have increased. However, YouTube may be tinkering with the code to maintain this perfect thing. I would be much less impressed if this is how the ratio was maintained but it’s a fun little hidden detail nonetheless.
Unlike the Futurama clip, this Easter egg is entirely enabled by the engineers at YouTube. In the earlier days of the platform, people noticed a quirk of YouTube in the view counter of viral videos. The view counter would climb and climb until it hit 301 views, then it would freeze for a day or so before rocketing up on its way to viral status. This was such a common occurrence on YouTube that memes started in the comment section of videos with 301 views and thousands of likes and dislikes. Brady Haran, the creator behind the channel Numberphile made a video investigating this phenomenon by talking to a YouTube representative. It turned out that the reason behind this quirk was the way YouTube verifies views are from real users and not bots. Despite likely having millions of views, the view counter for this video has been stuck on 301 — likely a move by a software engineer with a great sense of humour.
This Video Has 27,731,152 Views
Tom Scott is becoming one of my favourite YouTubers — he has a background in computer science but creates videos on a variety of different topics. The video I’m talking about is one of the most unique things I’ve seen on YouTube. Essentially Tom has managed to write code that updates the title of the video to reflect the views — as the view count goes up, the title will change to “This Video Has _________ Views”. I have never seen anyone else do this before, and Tom uses it perfectly as a hook to discuss APIs and the Web 2.0 phenomenon. I have a suspicion that YouTube engineers are maintaining this Easter egg because Tom mentions that the code is unlikely to be 100% correct at any given time and yet every time I visit, the title matches the video exactly. Perhaps someone at YouTube is helping maintain this creative idea with a thoughtful message behind it.
YouTube has largely moved away from the Easter eggs that affect how the site functions. We are now left with these very creative video Easter eggs, enabled by YouTube, the community or the creators. For me, this is a more appropriate level of fun and whimsy for the site. As the site has grown and become a significant component of Google’s income, it was always likely that some hidden features would be removed. I am only aware of these 3 video-based Easter eggs on YouTube and would like to discover more in the future.