When something pops up on the radar with enough force to bog down an entire message forum, we generally sit up and take notice. Today, eon8 is the web site that is shaking the ARG world, and it has a familiar feeling to it. If you are lucky enough to be able to access the site (traffic jams are just as nasty on the Internet as in real life, I guess) you will notice the countdown (currently at 0d:01h:30m:37s) as well as a Project Status (currently X13600 Imminent, whatever that means). A link to deployment logs reveals a lot of alphanumeric strings, while the Deployment Tracker is a lovely little link… that I can’t seem to access, yet. Many of the links on the front page go to a password-protected subdomain as well, evidence that this may indeed turn into an ARG.
All of that aside, this is another occasion where it’s not entirely certain what this site has in store, but with the amount of attention it has received so far, we’ll keep an eye out and update when we find out what the X13600 is going on.
:: Discussion at Unfiction forums (connection may be slow due to high volume of traffic)
So, as it turns out, the entire thing was a social experiment. At 12:00 AM EST, the site reloaded. These are excerpts of the text from the eon8.com site, under a link called “Reveal The Truth”:
As of July 1st, 2006, the E8 Project has completed.
The purpose of this project was to determine the reactions of the internet public to lack of information.
We were amazed to discover that the site was instantly linked with terrorism, simply for the fact that it seems mysterious. Evil was the number one first impression people had of the site, in spite of the fact that there are no threats on the site. The only thing Eon 8 says is “We don’t want you here”. Nothing else.
Other less disappointing opinions were social experimentation (which was correct), James Bond movie viral marketing, and promotions for video games.
For many people, being faced with a countdown timer was an instant reason to try to shut down or hack the site. This is a worrying reaction, that if someone doesn’t understand something they must destroy it. As a result, the servers have been hit quite hard these last few days, but luckily 99% of the ‘hackers’ could easily be described as ‘l4me n00bs’.
Another worrying example of paranoia was how quickly people would jump to conclusions, such as telephoning the registered owner of a dog seen in a photograph on a server that hosts a page that links to eon8.
The folks at Unfiction.com were the most resourceful and inventive, they successfully managed to decrypt several of the ‘codes’ on the site, forcing them to be re-encrypted using more secure methods.
People take things too seriously and panic over the most trivial things. But at the same time there are many people out there who think things through without jumping to conclusions. You can’t let pointless speculation rule your lives and force you to live in fear.
Thanks to everyone who kept things interesting, especially to the folks at unfiction. Sorry there is no ARG for you to play, but at least you had fun while it lasted.
Nice to see that they were thoughtful enough to thank those who paid attention through the link at Unfiction, and kudos for the quick explanation. For what it’s worth, it was kind of fun to be a lab rat for a few hours tonight.