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Webdriver Torso is a mysterious YouTube channel which was created back on March 7, 2013, possibly by Google. Webdriver Torso would upload mostly 10 second videos every single minute, and the channel still continues to do it to this day. As of August 30, 2015, Webdriver Torso has uploaded over 100,000 videos and over 90,000 subscribers. Although initially a place of speculation for viewers, YouTube/Google have humorously acknowledged that this channel exists as an internal testing utility for YouTube's performance, which may or may not be true. This channel has over 15 million views.
The dime difference between the uploads is usually between 1 and 20 minutes, and never more than an hour. Most are 11 seconds long, although they can be 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 25 minutes. All are slideshows. The 11 second long videos have 9 slides. Each slide is about 1 second long, has a solid white background, and contains two solid color opaque rectangles, one red and the other blue. Both rectangles have a random size, shape, and position in the slide. When the two overlap, the red rectangle always appears over the blue one, and on rare occasions, the red rectangles completely covers up the blue one. Each slide has 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", then were changed to "tmp” followed by random characters.
Webdriver Torso has three unusual videos. In one of the rectangle videos, tmpRkRI85, the red rectangle, becomes a silhouette of Rick Astley dancing in the second half of the video. The video “00014,” which is also Webdriver Torso’s most viewed video, is a video recorded in Paris that showed the Eiffel Tower being lit up. 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 euro to watch, and is only payable with a French credit card. It shows an episode of the American adult cartoon show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
The YouTube channels “Webdriver YPP," "Ekaterina Basic," and "Webdriver IVPE" all have similar content. Some of the videos made by "Webdriver YPP" have random phrases, such as "Jim knows about the glass" and "Contact his highness and ask about the pen.”
Prior to YouTube's confirmation of the channel as a test channel, there was some speculation about the identity and content of the videos.
On the video “00014" Webdriver Torso commented "Matei is highly intelligent." The "Matei" being mentioned is unknown. Basarab Matei, Matei Mancas, Matei Gruber, and Matei Ciocarlie have been suspected. A few months later, Webdriver Torso stated that "I am Matei,” for unknown reasons.
Cicada 3301 Speculation
The combination of the cryptic videos with the use of the phrase “highly intelligent" in the "Matei" comment led many to believe that Webdriver Torso was a part of the ongoing Cicada 3301 recruitment puzzle. Cicada 3301 had previously posted messages with hidden codes in an attempt to recruit "highly intelligent individuals.”
Solving the Mystery
The channel was later revealed to be a quality testing channel, (see below).
Soggetto Ventuno's Discoveries
An Italian blogger named “Soggetto Ventuno" discovered that WEbdriver Torso and all similar channels belong 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 Zurich employee. Leitner was friends with another employee, "Matei Gruber." "Matei” was mentioned on 00014, (see above). Ventuno then compared scenes from pulled videos with Google Zurich photos, and noticed matching things, indicating that the pulled videos were recorded at Google Zurich, and that the channel and all similar channels were run from Google Zurich.
Purpose of the 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 1987 song "Never Gonna Give You Up.”
It seems like YouTube is behind Webdriver Torso and that it is just a test; however, many people speculate that YouTube may be trying to pretend as though they are behind it, in order to hide the truth.
- When “Webdriver Torso” was searched into Google or YouTube, the Google logo and YouTube, the search results will both look like a Webdriver Torso video. This no longer works.
- In the Android L developer builds, the Android Version Easter egg is a reference to Webdriver Torso videos.