Thursday, December 27, 2012

Youtube UFO's (Unidentified Flashing Objects)

This is an important public service announcement to highlight something that I know has been troubling a lot of you. Yet you've been unable to voice your concerns because of the fleeting nature of the events in question.

Have no fear, I'm here to bring the subject out into the open.

I am speaking, of course, of those crazy-weird white ghostly artifacts which appear for a split second before Youtube videos start loading. These artifacts are usually just a white pixelated blob but after several weeks of seeing them I started to realize that they aren't just random white spots. They often have a distinctive shape. Once I saw an arrow, another time I saw ":30" appear. I searched the video page I was on, nowhere was there a ":30" that could have been misplaced somehow into this loading frame.

If you are unfamiliar with this phenomenon I just spent about twenty minutes trying to capture a glimpse of this in the wild so I could bring back evidence.


This is a fairly recent phenomenon, starting just before Youtube switched to its latest layout. This leads me to believe that Youtube also updated the way they display videos to include secret messages encoded in the opening seconds. The objects seem to repeat themselves for a couple of videos before switching to a new object.

What could this message possibly be? I like to believe that much like Peter Molyneux's "Curiousity" game the answer can only be discovered by the collective effort of the users. We must pool our resources and solve this digital puzzle!

The flashes actually reminded me of the opening frames of 35mm films. An example of that can be found in the opening to this newsreel from 1948. Watch the opening countdown and tell me it doesn't look similar to some of the artifacts which appear in the Youtube videos. Then skip to 3:05 and watch the bit about the cyclotron, it's pretty awesome.

In reality I'm afraid that this is all simply caused by weird framebuffering and other video-card related nonsense that I don't understand.

What can we learn from all this?

I am easily distracted by flashing lights.