For many, this Easter weekend will mean painting, hiding, and hunting eggs. It's a tradition that's more storied than it appears, a custom steeped in symbolism that spans the globe and crisscrosses cultures. It's even spread to the Web, where the notion of the Easter egg has adopted a whole new meaning. Online it's a secret message or hidden joke, planted by Web programmers and site designers for fun.
Nowhere are these more popular than on Google, and for the uninitiated Mental Floss this week posted 16 Google Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed. The list is a mix of photos and videos that depict some of the Internet company's most interesting hidden gems. Type "atari breakout" into Google Images and you'll get to play the game. Search Google-owned YouTube for "Beam me up, Scotty" and you'll get a results page that looks as though it's being beamed onto the screen. Search "Police telephone box" on Google Maps and you'll find a TARDIS from the British Sci Fi series "Doctor Who." Each egg is an experience that can reference anything from a pop culture trend to Googleplex employees' love of Google tech.
Also on YouTube searching the Star Wars mantra "use the force, Luke" will result in some serious changes to the page. But Easter eggs exist beyond Google and YouTube as well. On Facebook, where your default language is probably set to English (US), you can spice up your site experience by selecting English (Upside Down) or English (Pirate); click here and select Edit next to Language to make your (completely reversible) choice.
In an effort to demonstrate the Internet Easter egg phenomenon, Wikipedia has included an Easter egg as well. Find the image of a couple of rabbits and a hedgehog on the Easter egg (media) page, hover over the hedgehog, click, and you'll find your surprise.
Referencing an idiom from This is Spinal Tap, IMDb lists the movie's review rating out of 11 stars rather than 10. And at one time or another the Konami Code - a gaming cheat code created by the Japanese video game developer Konami Corporation - has triggered Easter eggs on such sites as Vogue, GQ, Digg, Facebook, and ESPN.
These Internet secrets tend to come and go, so make note of them when you spot them and be sure to tip off your friends. There's no reason why grown-ups can't have our share of the Easter egg fun.