Wiki Races: Chrome Fastball

By Alec Meer on July 5th, 2010 at 9:36 pm.

Do not question the way my mind works.

Is it advert, is it game, is it video, is it brainteaser? Chrome Fastball is all those things. It’s a promotional web-toy created by a little company known as Google, intended to convince us all to use the Chrome browser. Why, whoever would want to do that? We’re all so happy with Microsoft Internet Explorer whatever-the-hell-number-that-carcrash-is-on-now.

Yeah, it’s an advert. But it’s also a test of how well you know the internet: both its mechanics and its concept.

As a cute CGI animation of an impossible machine plays out over YouTube, you’re demanded every few seconds to master a challenge. Tweet a fact, search for three things of diminishing Google hits, rapido-type band names into Last.fm, map a route…

Do it as quickly as possible and willy-wave about your high score, but don’t expect too much variation on further plays.

Yeah, it’s an advert. But… well, I said that already, didn’t I? I was struck, though, by how many internet systems I recognise and understand, by how quickly I knew what to do.

This is why so many people can stare at us techno-folk and feel this modern internet business is totally, hopelessly beyond them. The amount we understand about interfaces and information retrieval, the speed we operate at… I may lack any practical skills whatsoever (though I can turn my eyelids inside out), but my brain has been stealth-programmed as thoroughly an internet organ. Yours too.

(I do realise Wikipedia doesn’t, in fact, feature amongst the challenges. Couldn’t pass up that headline, though.)

Thanks to DeliriumWartner for the tip.

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43 Comments »

  1. Sagan says:

    Oh that is clever.

    Took me over four minutes, just because I took over two minutes on the artists. I just couldn’t come up with an artist that starts with G. Couldn’t you have taken that screenshot a little later?

    Also search results in decreasing popularity? First one was obviously “tits.” Should be easy to find something less popular than that.

    • Kester says:

      I was quite pleased with my choice of “Bovril” for the least popular.

    • Jack says:

      I went with “Great” and it chose a band for me.

    • kyynis says:

      “tits”, “penises” and lastly, “bumholes.” God I’m juvenile.

    • Bozzley says:

      Gorillaz for me, had to look at my Winamp playlist for Editors though.

    • Wahngrok says:

      Ah you young folk… what’s wrong with Genesis.

      Also “sex” was the first pick for me.

    • Wes says:

      I typed “H1N1″ because I thought it meant search results that returned less results than they used too. Eventually I ended up skipping it, nothing I tried seemed to work. Old political scandals, older pop references, bah!

    • vanarbulax says:

      Well that was fun and informative. Who knew that taxes beat boobs in amount of searches?

    • Matt says:

      come on people, George Clinton!

    • Aftershock says:

      Porn > Gay Porn > Gay Midget Porn.

      Easy.

    • disperse says:

      Lady Gaga > Barack Obama (Sadly true)

  2. Heliosicle says:

    I’m disappointed you chose Banamarama…

  3. Snuffy (the Evil) says:

    I started with God, then entered Reliant K. I had a lot of trouble beating that. “Elephant Sasquatch” finally worked, but even then it was close.

  4. Taverius says:

    They’d have me sold on chrome if only they’d let me have more than 1 line of tabs.

    What is this, 1999?

    • Wulf says:

      Pretty much.

      Then again, that’s a huge problem with Chrome’s limited extendibility. Right now, I’m using a custom build of Firefox along with a large number of extensions, it trounces Chrome in every way (whilst only doing specifically what I need it to), and does things that Chrome could only have wet dreams about. The one, sole area where Chrome is ahead of Firefox? Uh… it can play complex Javascript games? That’s about it, really, from my experiences.

      Now, if Google went completely opened up their API and the extendibility in the same way that the Mozilla foundation has with their browsers, then they might have something there. They haven’t done that… yet. Will they? Who knows. Also: Google, if you’re paying attention, it doesn’t help that the default theme is an inefficient, impractical monstrosity of annoyingly-shiny Web 2.0 nonsense. Accessibility first.

      Try harder, Google. I’m interested, but I don’t find your browser worthwhile. Right now, my brain classifies Chrome under ‘fun toy’ as opposed to ‘real browser’. Though I suppose it’s good for people who want something out of the box, and don’t care about extendibility, customisation, or any of that jazz.

    • Skurmedel says:

      Wulf: The underlying Chrome engine (Chromium) is open source. Anyone can fork it or make their own builds; thus it’s pretty open already.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I really like the default chrome on chrome. I like the simplicity of it all, y’know. Lazarus is about the only add-on I wouldn’t do without.

      I find firefox to me much slower to start and slightly slower in operation. I can’t think of any add-ons that I really miss from it (I moved to chrome shortly after it came out).

      What add-ons are you using?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      Have you managed to deal with Firefox’s incredibly slow starts? If so, do share. :)

    • Wulf says:

      @Skurmedel

      That isn’t relevant to the point I was trying to make, though. What I said was that Chrome has limited extendibility, not that Chrome has limited source access. And you see, Chrome does suffer with rather limited extendibility, but more because of the way it’s designed. Even if you manage to get the extendibility up to Firefox-levels, you still have to have something that’ll begin to match addons.mozilla.org, which I don’t see happening very soon.

      Until that does happen, I have no interest in Chrome beyond ‘fun toy’, it’s not really a practical browser until it can pull that off.

      @DrazharLn

      Telling you what I use won’t really help. The only thing I can suggest is this:

      http://addons.mozilla.org/

      It’s fun to get in there and start digging around, whenever I have a look to see what’s new, I usually spot something interesting that adds brand new and exceedingly useful functionality to Firefox. And then there’s the fun stuff, too. I particularly like the StumbleUpon functionality, but there’s just so much there, and the point is – the entire point is – customising the browser to what [i]you[/i] want.

      If Chrome works for you, then hooray, use Chrome. I just find Chrome too limited for me.

      @Vinraith

      It takes 1-1.5 seconds on an SSD. :p The problem is pretty much down to slow drives, which leads to slow loading times in games, Photoshop taking forever to process things, and, indeed, some apps taking forever to start up.

    • Zogtee says:

      July 6, 2010 at 2:19 am, Vinraith says @Wulf
      “Have you managed to deal with Firefox’s incredibly slow starts? If so, do share. :)”

      TBH, I don’t find the extra second or two a major inconvenience and I haven’t noticed any performance problems when I use it either.

      @RPS
      Bashing MS and Explorer? Really? I thought we had finally moved past that, but I guess not.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      Ah, well a slow drive would certainly explain it. Sadly an SSD is not in my immediate future.

  5. Mike Russo says:

    My friend made this! Who is right this moment sat next to me as we play role-playing games together. Ah, is good to be a nerd.

  6. DeliriumWartner says:

    I went with Bananarama too! I shamefully resorted to Itunes for the ‘D’ as the incessant ticking had melted my thinking parts.

  7. Seymour says:

    Nice little distraction, but I wont be pulled away from Firefox for while yet. Pretty much until Chrome actually has somthing going for it other than “Oooh isn’t that pretty!”
    Also, whoever took the screeny, good call on Iron and Wine + Calexico. In the Reins is a beastly album! ^.^

  8. drewski says:

    Eh.

    I just don’t trust Google not to be spying on me. I should probably try Opera again, though.

    • Seymour says:

      Google are spying on you whether you use their browser or not. Thing is, it’s still at the stage where few people know the extent of how much info the ISPs harvest on us all, so they pretty much get away with it. We are using their sevice though, so it’s hardly surprising.

    • Wulf says:

      There are ways to curb this fairly well though, if you know how. And in fact, if you rotate your IP frequently enough, then there are ways to make any kind of tracking completely ineffectual.

  9. BaconIsGood4You says:

    The video isn’t CGI, it’s all real and the game was created by B-Reel.

    • Brumisator says:

      Not that it’s impressive in any way… there are thousands of better made rube goldberg machines out there

  10. Web Cole says:

    I can’t even begin to fathom how one could turn their eyelids inside out…

  11. mandrill says:

    3:48

    Bananarama (yeah I cheated)
    Rammstein
    In Extremo
    Def Leppard
    Godfinger
    Enya

    Paris Hilton
    Chihuahua Grooming
    My own name

    A good laugh and a nice bit of viral advertising. I like how it integrated all the various stuff you could do on the web into it. It reminded me of the google images game (which I now can’t find) which gave you ten seconds to enter the search term that resulted in the array of images you were being shown.

  12. Tei says:

    As a webmaster, I wish everyone would use chrome, or any other decent browser. IE make my work really hard, the hard way. Bugs are not challenge, bugs make things that sould work, break, so you have to make something dirty and ugly, so it work again, and probably will break soon. IE affect internet, in a very very very bad way. Use chrome, firefox, opera, or whatever you want, but *please* don’t use IE.

  13. Shazbut says:

    For the band names, I entered the first words that popped into my head for 4 of them, and 3 of them were accepted.

    My google search was:

    Porn
    Breasts
    Lyme Disease

    • Jake says:

      I wonder what happens if you type those three things together into real google. Some Japanese site no doubt.

  14. Jimmy Z says:

    Chrome is actually a really nice browser. It’s lightning fast compared to Firefox both in boot-up but also in rendering web pages, especially on slightly older hardware. It’s also a lot more stable, thanks to its’ rather clever way of handling all tabs as separate entities, so if a website causes a crash (usually due to shoddy flash coding), the whole browser doesn’t go down, just the tab with the shoddy coding.

    There is however one serious drawback to chrome and that is the lack of a plugin / feature like the NoScript plugin for Firefox. About 99% of all plugins for Firefox are useless crap that just make the browser more unwieldy and unstable, but having browsed the interwebs for years in peace from all that javascript / flash – garbage thanks to NoScript, it’s really hard to live without it anymore.

    • gribbit says:

      Incidentally, I actually installed Chrome to play this game due to not being able to activate it properly behind my NoScript, Flashblock, and browser settings. I promptly uninstalled it afterwards.

  15. CMaster says:

    You’re ranked 19865 out of 78667 players. Pretty good!

    The last.fm challenge took far more time than anything else.

  16. Frank says:

    After the first question, I thought everything had to have “ball” in it, so my searches were “ball”, “q-ball” and “queue ball”.

    And I’m still for Firefox for similar reasons to Wulf. Maybe if they get working versions of xmarks, flashblock and forecastfox I’ll switch. Also, it must become faster. They say the tabs open in different processes, but I have many times seen one tab stay blank while several are loading. boo

  17. a says:

    I discovered that skill of mine when I was like 10. Then I got pink eye. Careful Alec!

  18. Hideous says:

    Search results for me was:

    Reddit
    Bacon
    asdauhksldhasld

    Last one got 0, obviously.

  19. measurements says:

    Inspired by xkcd my search was X girls Y cups related. Although in the end my third result was ‘twenty five hams’.

    And I think I might have had a better time on the bands than others here, I just thought of artists I know. Beatles, Radiohead, Imogen heap, Del amitri, Glenn gould (other choice there was G. Love) and Eagles (of death metal).

    Aside: do you think you could chart google results like a form of democracy or psychohistory (see: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series)? I mean if you chart things over time could you begin to predict trends of rising interest and invest accordingly? Evil genius idea or just hamfisted keyboard slaverings?

  20. DragonSix says:

    Does the EULA still state that google possess your soul and all your belongings?

    • Jimmy Z says:

      Nah, they updated it. Now they just want the soul of your firstborn when he or she turns seven years old.