Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Webdriver Torso

This story is so weird that I can't help but be captivated.

In fact, it reminds me greatly of "the footage" from William Gibson's book, Pattern Recognition.

There is a YouTube user named Webdriver Torso.  In September of last year, Webdriver Torso uploaded an 11-second video that featured a sequence of red and blue rectangles.  Approximately half an hour later, they uploaded a follow-up video.  This one was much the same with the same rectangles but with slight variations in the pattern.

Over the course of eight months, Webdriver would upload 80,000 clips.  Each appears unique but all are in the same format.

So of course this has fired the imaginations of millions of people like me who really must need something to do.

Boing Boing speculates that Webdriver Torso could be the next generation of number stations.  These were communication posts that would broadcast seemingly unintelligible strings of numbers and letters.  Unintelligible to anyone but their recipients...who were usually spies.  Is this really an efficient and effective means for an intelligence operation?  I guess it would be cheap and there's easy access most anywhere in the world.  Still, I have to wonder if that's too good to be true.

There are, of course, other proposed explanations.  This might actually be an errant piece of software that is randomly generating clips and automatically uploading them.  Oh the hilarity if this ends up being a glitchy "much ado about nothing" scenario.  Unfortunately, this too seems unlikely for reasons that will become apparent later.

It might also be somebody's idea of a crytpography challenge.  You know, "Are you smart enough to crack my code?  Of course you aren't and that's why I'm an unappreciated genius."  Related to that is the chance that it's all a publicity stunt.  "Webdriver" is the name of a software tool from Selenium.  Representatives of Selenium have denied any involvement.

Oh what to think.

Stephen Beckett, writer of the BBC link I provided above, downloaded a whole dump of metric data on Webdriver Torso.  He found two anomalies.

One is that the first video Webdriver ever uploaded is a clip from the animated series, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.  The clip is only available in France.  The other deviation is a six-second video of the Eiffel Tower as seen from a balcony.  In that vid see a glimpse of a face.  Is it the mysterious Webdriver Torso?  No way to say.

Naturally there are those who say it's "aliens." I suppose that would make these videos the digital equivalent of crop circles, enigmatic messages left for reasons.  Or maybe it would be more like the trope where aliens are hiding messages to one another within our own communications.  So aliens use YouTube?  Then I'm disappointed they aren't increasing the quality of user comments on videos and attempting to steer us away from inane and ad hominem remarks.

Seriously folks, what are these videos?  What are they supposed to mean?  If anything?

ESE will give updates on this story as they arise.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. This just in...http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27778071


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