What Easter Eggs and Software Have In Common

The Easter egg—as in a hidden surprise or in-joke, not the chocolate treat—can be dated back to the last Russian imperial family who gifted people with jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs containing additional surprises tucked away inside.

However, in modern times the secret Easter egg has become more associated with technology.  These unexpected features can be found in everything from software—especially video games—to hardware, where designers include graphics and messages on circuit boards.  This is something that is frowned upon by security experts as it can be a weakness in the code, or suggest that there is a back door into a system.

Famous examples of this were in a previous version of Microsoft Office.  Easter eggs in the 1997 version of Microsoft Office included a hidden flight simulator in Microsoft Excel.  There was also a pinball game in Microsoft Word.  For a time, Google Maps contained several Easter eggs.  A user asking for directions from Japan to China, from New York to Tokyo, or from Taiwan to China would be directed to either jetski, kayak, or swim across the Pacific Ocean.  Asking Google Maps for walking directions from ‘the Shire to Mordor’ produces “One does not simply walk into Mordor”.  This is a warning that replicates a line from The Lord of the Rings.

Computer games, DVDs and even works of art can contain Easter Eggs.  There are lots of websites with information on how to locate Easter Eggs.  The non-chocolate type, clearly.

In our business, if a member of staff introduces an Easter egg into a customer project or a software product it’s a dismissible offence.  End of.  Within your business, are there activities that may initially look like fun or a prank, but could dramatically back-fire and worry customers?  If so, have you addressed this behaviour in your employment contract or staff handbook?