It felt quite appropriate for this season a post that has been in draft for a few months, after collecting several examples of one feature that is rarely highlighted on interactive design. Let’s find some virtual Easter eggs!

Easter eggs (as in virtual, not the seasonal ones), are secret messages left hidden on objects/websites to be found by users. The first historical appearance of a virtual Easter egg was on Atari’s Adventure in 1979, later popularized by the NES series Contra with their Konami code.

Lately there has been a renewed interest on providing such hidden treats, either connected to Alternate Reality Gaming or as a simple way to surprise passionate users on web applications.

Ninja Mode for Google Reader

For instance, Matt Cutts, head of web spam team, showed us their Konami code that activates Ninja Mode:

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT RIGHT,LEFT, RIGHT, B,A = Ninjas appear on the left sidebar + 30 unread items + heart power 🙂

Extra Lives for the Globe

The same Konami code was hidden on The Globe’s website redesign last October, with Mathew Ingram creating fun for their readers using the popular Contra keyboard.

Konami’s Code

You can find lots of other examples at (to enter, use the konami code) or on Wikipedia, with other large scale websites using the famous keyboard combo :

  • The popular Javascript framework JQuery also rocks
  • Shaun Inman’s Mint web analytics software, revealing a way to control Stan (aka Jason Santa Maria) singing a metal song in Middle Earth.
  • Social Network Netlog gives us a hungry green dragon.
  • The geek webcomic XKCD couldn’t help to also feature a Konami code, right on their unix version.

“I’m feeling Lucky”

Just type the words and press “I’m Feeling Lucky Button”

  • Hacker-speak: “google l33t”
  • Klinkgon: “xx-klingon”
  • Pirate: “xx-pirate”
  • Pig-Latin: “xx-piglatin”

Search gems

Similar to Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” is the idea of showing special search results to particular keywords. If you search for a one-way flight on September 22, 2010 on Kayak, it will “show” the tickets for the Sydney-LAX Oceanic 815 flight, the one from TV series Lost. And you can even try to book it.

(via Adverlab)
Referencing popular culture on a discrete but ingenious way might just be the modern form of easter egg.

Also on Facebook

I was quite surprised to find out that Facebook actually enjoys this kind of surprises.

Besides the Konami code (showing a flare), Facebook programmers are known to place messages hidden messges. After selecting all text on a friend Friend’s list, at the bottom there’s the message: “What doesn’t kill a quail tour turkey only makes it stronger”.

Or in the same page, try selecting one of the “—” on the dropdown box to get a grid view of all friends.
Another easter egg is on Facebook Chat, were writing :putnam: gets you an emoticon of a man�s head.

Source Code Delights

One of the best examples of easter eggs i found was this one used on the FujiFilm binoculars, where what seemed just like an ordinary, web design non-standart HTML code was actually the silhouette of Mount Fuji, a clever way to pay homage to a country but also highlight the main feature of their products.

Website Scavenger Hunts

A bit more complex than the simple easter egg, they are used to some mail markets extent on marketing, but it’s hard to ensure success unless you have the kind of passionate users like,that launched in 2008 a multi-site easter egg hunt across several websites.

One of the best examples of this playful interaction is Disney, and their self-referencing of characters and objects, on a such discrete way that we don’t even notice, but when finding out, we just love it.

Copyright 2003 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
The comic book being read at the Incredibles is the then upcoming Finding Nemo

Easter eggs give connectors a social object, a exciting story to spread among their network and make a brand webmaster team more human and more memorable. Building curiosity in brand experiences is not only fun but a response to our human nature: we are discoverers.

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