The top 15 Google Easter eggs of 2012

In case you missed any of Google's fun Easter eggs this year, such as the directions to Mordor or a playable Moog synthesizer, here's a rundown of the greatest hits

Easter eggs, doodles, and pranks

Each year, the great tech prankster Google hides tons of Easter Eggs in its products—from its search engine and email service to its Android operating system and Google Maps.

And each year we try to find them all. Here’s this year’s crop of Easter Eggs, pranks, interactive doodles, and tricks

Zerg rush

This fun Google Easter egg first showed up in April 2012. If you type “zerg rush” into Google’s search box, your search results will be overtaken by wave after wave of red and yellow Google Os. To get rid of these Os, you’ll have to point-and-shoot—clicking on each O until it dies.

This Easter egg is a nod to the popular Blizzard game, StarCraft, and a move that Zerg users make when they attack their opponents with waves of annoying, easily killable Zerglings.

At the end of the Google game, the Os will form a “GG” symbol (“good game”), and you’ll get your results.

I’m feeling…trendy?

Ever since Google rolled out Google Instant, which is a feature that takes you directly to search results when you start typing in the Google search box, its “I’m Feeling Lucky” button has been sort of useless.

That’s why, in August, Google mixed up its “I’m Feeling Lucky” button with some other phrases—now, when you hover over the button, the wording changes to something different, such as “I’m Feeling Trendy” or “I’m Feeling Hungry.”

Google Reader ninja

Google Reader is “like a magazine you design”—it’s a Web-based aggregator that lets you subscribe to Atom and RSS feeds so you can read the latest Web content from your favorite sites in one place. But it’s also home to a ninja!

Go to Google Reader and tap out the Konami code on your keyboard: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a. A ninja will then pop out of the left column!

Easter eggs for number nerds

If you like numeral systems other than base 10, you’re in luck—because Google’s got a little Easter egg for you.

Type “binary,” “hexadecimal,” or “octal” into the Google search box. Google will give you the number of search matches in that numeral system—for example, if you type “hexadecimal,” Google will say “About 0x19a7620 results (0.27 seconds).”

This number will change, depending on the number of search results available at any given time.

8-bit Google Maps

Google’s April Fools’ Day pranks are usually pretty epic, and this year’s was no different.

For April Fools’ Day 2012, Google previewed an 8-bit version of its Google Maps service, designed for the old-school NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). This version of Google Maps is no longer up, but it was available via the regular Google Maps website, using the “Quest” button in the top right corner.

What was even cooler is that this 8-bit version of Google Maps also had some fun Easter Eggs hidden inside it.

Robert Moog’s 78th birthday

On May 23, 2012, Google offered up a pretty nifty and technically awesome doodle in honor of Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

Google’s doodle was a web-based playable Moog synthesizer that allowed users to record and share their musical creations. Like all musical doodles, this doodle was particularly popular and, according to Google’s chief doodler, was “the most technically ambitious doodle yet.”

Really Advanced Search

Google’s “Really Advanced Search” didn’t really work, but it featured a cute search form that included options for finding pages with “words almost, but not quite entirely unlike” or “subtext or innuendo for…”

Alan Turing’s 100th birthday

For Alan Turing’s 100th birthday, Google created a special tricky doodle in honor of the British mathematician who helped pioneer the modern day computer.

Google’s doodle was a Turing Machine—a conceptual computing machine that would use an infinitely long piece of tape containing a series of symbols. At the time, Turing Machines couldn’t realistically be created (since there is no such thing as an infinitely long piece of tape), but modern day computers use similar logic, minus the tape.

Anyway, Google’s doodle is a brain-twister for sure, but I won’t spoil the surprise. See if you can crack the code here.

Interplanetary reporting for Google Analytics

In case you haven’t realized this yet, Google is really, really, really into April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2012, Google offered up yet another fun April Fools’ prank for users of its Adwords Analytics portal: Interplanetary reporting.

Google posted a fake blog post on its Analytics blog, detailing how it planned to expand its analytics reporting beyond Earth to help its users understand visitor activities from “neighboring stars and planets.”

Android Jelly Bean

Each version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android, contains an Easter Egg in the “About phone” menu, and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) is no different.

Open up your Android phone settings and go to “About phone.” Tap “Android version” several times and a large jelly bean (complete with Android antennae and a smiling face) will appear.

Long press the jelly bean, and you’ll be transported to a mini game where jelly beans float freely about the screen and can be swiped and tossed with your finger.

Walking to Mordor

This isn’t a new Easter Egg, but it’s relevant considering "The Hobbit" is coming to theaters on December 14.

Here’s what you do: go to Google Maps and navigate to New Zealand. Hit “Get directions” and tap the “walking directions” tab. Then type “The Shire” in box A and “Mordor” in box B.

Google will spit out a Lord of the Rings-inspired warning: “Use caution—One does not simply walk into Mordor.”

Google Translate beatbox

Want to hear Google Translate break it down, beatboxing style?

Type in a somewhat random string of characters, make sure translate is set from English to German, and then hit the little “listen” button in the bottom right corner of the Google Translate box.

This is an Easter Egg—not a fluke—because if you mouse over the “Listen” button, you’ll see that it now says “Beatbox.”

Here’s the string: pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk bschk pv bschk bschk pv kkkkkkkkkk bschk bschk bschk

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

Google can now help you play the popular parlor game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” If you’re not familiar with the game, the goal is to find the shortest path (using movies, other credits, and anything else you can think of, such as relationships) between an actor and Kevin Bacon.

For example, Julia Roberts starred in "Flatliners" with Kevin Bacon, so she is one degree away from Kevin Bacon. But Richard Gere starred with Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride," so he is two degrees away from Kevin Bacon (Gere > Roberts > Bacon).

Well now, if you type an actor’s name and “bacon number” into Google, you’ll get not only their degrees away from Kevin Bacon, but a breakdown of how Google got to that number.

Google Chrome multitask mode

On April 1, 2012, Google announced a multitask mode for Chrome. Specifically—this is a mode that allows you to “browse the Web with more than one mouse.”

The page announcing the April Fools’ joke features a video and an option to try out the multitask mode—clicking the “Try Multitask Mode” button adds an additional cursor to the screen…and then another…and then another ... until your screen is overwhelmed with little black cursors.

Google data center pranks

Earlier this year, Google gave one of its North Carolina data centers the Street View treatment. You can now poke around inside the center, located in Lenoir, North Carolina, and check out where your data (sometimes) lives.

Google, of course, couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw in some fun Street View Easter Eggs, such as a giant Android figure, a Stormtrooper, and an employee Rickrolling you. (On a more serious note, check out Google’s data centers tour here.)