The social web is a fluid, dynamic beast. All 6.4 billion of us humans on this planet plug into the media, and there are our thoughts gathering on the network and merging and mutating and flying around the globe. A whimsy, a wisp of thought, and a meme meet together and flow away on a current of electrons, dashing against the cliffs of a corporate firewall, burrowing deep into a mailing list to snuggle for a while. There is no stillness on this infinite plain of abstracted thought, and what you whisper may become what others scream.
One such captured whisper wafted into a forum on the 11th of February, 2007. In the doom9 forum, a poster announced triumphantly that they had discovered the processing key which would unlock all HD-DVD discs, and possibly Blu-Ray discs as well. The key was a 128-bit hexadecimal digit: 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0. (Currently at 1,660,000 hits on Google without hyphens, and 3,390,000 with hyphens, so don’t yell at me for posting it.)
One number to rule them all.
The number sat, coyly napping, until it’s time would come. On May 1st, 2007, a member of the website Digg.com found this token of power, and posted it on Digg. Digg took it down. You see, according to the media industry in America, even saying that number out loud is illegal!
So another poster put the number back up. Digg took that one down. So another poster posted the number. Digg banned the poster, deleted his account, then took that one down. The fight was on.
It lasted into the evening hours. More users began to notice that these posts kept doing a jack-in-the-box number, more members decided to vote the number to the front page of Digg, Digg staff fought harder to censor the number. For hours, you could just sit there and refresh your RSS feed every ten minutes, watching as nearly a million people all over the world faced off in the ultimate battle of wills – playing hexadecimal pong.
It traveled. It bounced to Boing Boing, it sliced across Slashdot, is scrolled by on TEXYT. It planted itself “where a thousand flowers bloomed”. Somehow, it had become alive. It was a symbol for freedom, for revolution, for change, for tearing down the corporate castles. It leaped from screen to screen all over the world, passed on by people who no longer knew what it was for and didn’t give a care about HD-DVD anyway.
Just how it came to life is what we call the “Streisand Effect”, an Internet phenomena where the attempt to suppress information causes it to be widely spread, when no one would have cared about it had it not been censored at all.
Far into the night, the weary Kevin Rose, owner of Digg, finally gave in. One by one, other sites quit fighting it. And just like that, with no force to push against anymore, the storm suddenly broke and everything was calm again. The number was happy. It had fed well.
To this day, there is still a ghost somewhere in the halls of the MPAA who is roaring threats to send take down notices to every single site that published the number. That now makes my site #5,050,000 in line for take-down. At a rate of 10 take-down notices per day, assuming they’re all successful, that will mean that you’ll see this website disappear sometime around the year 3390, unless I remember to come back to this post and delete it first.
And get your own 128-bit number! Just remember… keep it secret, keep it safe. Don’t let it get loose online, and whatever you do, don’t feed it after midnight!
- The Year of Digg 2007
- Digg Friends
- The State of Social Networking
- It’s Traffic Day (Or: Digg is Over-Rated)
- Twitter’s Tweeters and the Twagic Twits They Tweet