Webdriver Torso is a YouTube automated performance testing account that became famous in 2014 for speculations about its (then unexplained) nature and jokes featured in some of its videos. Created by Google on 7 March 2013, the channel began uploading videos, from 23 September of the same year, that showed simple slides accompanied by beeps. It brought public attention in 2014, when it became a source of speculation for viewers who discovered it and noted three atypical videos featuring jokes. It remained a popular mystery until YouTube humorously acknowledged that the channel exists as an internal testing utility. The channel stopped posting videos at its same rate after 624,735 videos as of 4 May 2017. The channel posted a few more videos in May, August and October 2018.
From 23 September 2013 to 26 October 2018, the channel uploaded a total of 624,746 videos. The interval between one upload and another usually lasted between 1 and 15 minutes, but sometimes up to one hour. With the exception of three, all videos follow the set of standards described below. The channel stopped uploading on 4 May 2017, but resumed uploading on 18 May 2018 until another halt four days later.
Most of the videos are 11 seconds long, although some are also around 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 25 minutes long. They are slideshows showing slides about 1 second long each. Each slide consists of a solid white background overlapped by two solid color opaque rectangles, one red and the other blue. Both rectangles have a random size, shape, and position on the slide. When the two overlap, the red rectangle always appears over the blue one, and on rare occasions, the red rectangle completely covers up the blue one. Each slide has a random computer-generated wave tone. In the corner of each video, it says "aqua.flv - slide (number with four digits)". Early videos were called "aqua", which was then changed to "tmp", an abbreviation for the word "template" or "temporary", followed by random characters.
The channel has three videos which do not follow the channel's standards, featuring instead internal references or jokes. One of them, titled "tmpRkRL85", appears a usual video until the red rectangle becomes a silhouette of Rick Astley dancing (referencing the Rickrolling phenomenon) in the second half of the video. The video "00014" is a piece of footage recorded in Paris that shows the Eiffel Tower being lit up at night. At the end of the video, the camera is put down, and the Webdriver Torso Facebook page is visible for a few frames. The last one, "0.455442373793", is only viewable in France, requires a payment of 1.99 euros to watch, and is only payable with a French credit card. It shows an episode of the American adult cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force dubbed in Spanish.
Prior to YouTube's confirmation of the channel as a test channel, there was some speculation about the identity and content of the videos. Hypotheses about the channel's purposes included spy messages, contact by extraterrestrial life-forms, construction plans and a Cicada 3301 recruitment program.
Despite Google having clarified the channel's purpose, this did not explain the seemingly humorous references contained in some of the videos. These include the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode, the Rick Astley silhouette, and the Eiffel Tower footage. In this last, Webdriver Torso at one time commented "Matei is highly intelligent". The "Matei" in question is unknown, but Basarab Matei, Matei Mancas, Matei Gruber, and Matei Ciocarlie have all been suspected. The "Matei" comment was apparently removed at some later time.
Soggetto Ventuno's investigation
An Italian blogger named "Soggetto Ventuno" found out that Webdriver Torso belongs to a network of accounts called "ytuploadtestpartner_torso". Ventuno then discovered some other accounts with similar videos, many of which were pulled or made private after Ventuno's investigations were published. The network linked to a Facebook page and a Twitter page, which have now both been taken down. The Facebook page had mentioned "Johannes Leitner", a Google Zürich employee. Leitner was friends with another employee, "Matei Gruber". A "Matei" is mentioned on 00014 (see above). Ventuno then compared scenes from pulled videos with Google Zürich photos, and noticed matching things, indicating that the pulled videos were recorded at Google Zürich, and that the channel and all similar channels were run from Google Zürich.
Purpose of videos
The videos are made to test YouTube video quality. After creation, the videos are uploaded to YouTube. The uploaded videos are then compared to the videos before they were uploaded, to see how much quality was lost.
When YouTube was asked about Webdriver Torso, they replied:
"We're never gonna give you uploading that's slow or loses video quality, and we're never gonna let you down by playing YouTube in poor video quality. That's why we're always running tests like Webdriver Torso." This is a reference to Rick Astley's song "Never Gonna Give You Up".
When "Webdriver Torso" is searched into Google, the Google logo will look like a Webdriver Torso video. Another Easter egg is that in the Android L developer builds, the Android Version Easter Egg is a reference to Webdriver Torso videos.
- "Webdriver Torso/About". YouTube. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
- Jane Wakefield. "Google behind Webdriver Torso mystery". BBC. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
- "Webdriver Torso YouTube Stats, Channel Statistics". Socialblade. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
- "tmpR0uIim". YouTube. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
- "tmpMJ2d7d". YouTube. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
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- "aqua". YouTube. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- on YouTube
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- on YouTube
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- ""Webdriver Torso" is either something incredibly sinister or nothing at all". The A.V. Club. The Onion, Inc. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- "Webdriver Torso Decoding your Secrets Part 2 Videos are really a Construction Plans?". YouTube. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- "The internet mystery that has the world baffled". Daily Telegraph. 25 November 2013. Archived from the original on 25 November 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "The truth behind one YouTube account's 77,000 mysterious videos". The Guardian. The Guardian. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
- Wakefield, Jane (10 July 2014). "Google behind Webdriver Torso mystery". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- Cory McNutt. "'Webdriver Torso' Ends up as Android L's Easter Egg". Android Headlines. Retrieved 2 September 2017.