On Thursday, countless office drones amused themselves with do a barrel roll, the latest digital meme and workday diversion that turns your browser upside down if you query the phrase in Google search (on Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari).
The barrel roll is the most recently discovered easter egg -- an inside joke implanted by engineers working at Google headquarters.
Coders have been doing this kind of thing for decades, said Nick Hall, a design technology consultant (and one of the people behind Foursquare Door) we contacted to help explain how do a barrel roll works on the back end.
For those just tuning in, Web pages look the way they do because of two pieces of technology: HTML and CSS. HTML is the skeleton, and CSS is the skin, Hall explained. Engineers behind the latest easter eggs are using a combination of new features in CSS3 [the most recent version of CSS]...that allow you to rotate, skew, and otherwise deform parts of a page (or the whole page), and also animate those changes into an effect such as the 'barrel roll.'
A previous IBTimes story about do a barrel roll pointed out a number of equally amusing Google easter eggs, including the Google gravity query -- if you use the I'm feeling lucky search feature for that query, the screen bottoms out.
Web browsers couldn't handle much animation back then so that was done with Flash, Nick said. What's so cool about the barrel roll trick is that they're using new HTML5 and CSS3 technologies that are open standards, rather than the proprietary and closed-off Flash, which until very recently was the only way to do this kind of stuff on the Web.
While barrel roll itself is a pretty outdated meme inspired by the Nintendo game Star Fox 54 (Knowyourmeme.com dates it back to 1997, the same year the game was released), do a barrel roll was a major trending phrase this week, and seems to have peaked Thursday.
In today's ultra-digitized consumer marketplace, where virtually no platform or mode of communication is resistant to claims from advertisers, a trend as popular as do a barrel roll can heavily influence the consumer landscape, if only temporarily.
New real estate is created when there is a phenomenon like this, said Mike Oristian, the co-founder of Lucyphone who has a coding background himself. You have billboards in real time around memes, when trending phrases become sought-after ad words among marketers eager to cash in by building advertising content around them. It's almost like it creates its own digital geography.
A Google spokesperson confirmed to Mashable that do a barrel roll' was indeed created by a Google engineer with the primary goal of entertaining users -- while showcasing the power of CSS3. The spokesperson added that the query would remain in place for a while.
And according to Hall, it won't be alone.
We'll keep seeing this stuff in more places around the web. The technology is already all over the Apple Web site, he said. The most interesting thing to me is that as Web browsers get better at doing sophisticated stuff like this, they'll give other development platforms [native iOS Apps, Flash, etc.] a run for their money.