Now I will believe that there are unicorns…

Anyone who looked at ESPN online today (04/27/09) may find themselves agreeing with Mr. Shakespeare. Starting a little after 4pm EST you may have noticed a spike in chatter on Twitter related to ESPN.com. A high profile web site defacement occurred on the sports news web site where the Cornify script by Christoph Helzle was invoked by a Javascript using keystokes known as the Konami code.

ESPN is cornified.

ESPN is cornified.


For those who have not played Contra in a while, the Konami code is up,up,down,down,left,right,left,right,b,a,enter (it used to be good for 30 lives among other things in popular video game titles, such as Contra or Life Force). Cornify, as the web site implies, provides unicorns and rainbows on demand, essentially appending pictures of unicorns to div tags randomly around the web page.

References to the Cornify script showed up in two places on the web site. The first, at the top of the page following the <head> tag was a simple href reference to the cornify web site.

The second part of the script, responsible for the Konami code and the call to cornify.com, is found in one of the external Javascript files: http://a.espncdn.com/prod/scripts/espn.core.min.200904211701.js

Here is the relevant snippet, you will note the variable c contains the references for the keydown event:

(jQuery);
(function(b){var d=[],c="38,38,40,40,37,39,37,39,66,65";
b(document).keydown(function(f){d.push(f.keyCode);
if(d.toString().indexOf(c)>=0){b(document).unbind("keydown",arguments.callee);
b.getScript("http://www.cornify.com/js/cornify.js",function(){cornify_add();
b(document).keydown(cornify_add)

How the script ended up on the ESPN web site is anyone’s guess at this point in time, ESPN has not yet released a statement. Speculation abounds on web forums and in blog comments as to whether this was as a result of some third party attack or a prank by an ESPN staffer or consultant. One comment even suggested that ESPN did this on purpose as a viral marketing ploy, however this seems unlikely. Imagine the board meeting where someone suggests: “Gentleman I’ve got it, the secret to sports web site traffic. It’s unicorns”.

If you want a demonstration of what the Cornify script does, have fun clicking the image below:

Cornify

Updates

04/29/09 – Keith Lam, a developer for the ESPN web sites, confirmed that the script was a prank, added March 31st by a developer as an April Fools joke, and largely unnoticed until the post on Kotatu. You will note that Keith took some grief on Twitter for his role in removing the Javascript: conversation on Twitter.

References

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  1. [...] by a developer unbeknownst to the powers that be at Newsweek, similar to an incident that happened at ESPN involving unicorns last [...]

  2. [...] of that company’s video games, starting in around 1986. This web site defacement mirrors the one that happened to ESPN.com last [...]

  3. [...] by a developer unbeknownst to the powers that be at Newsweek, similar to an incident that happened at ESPN involving unicorns last [...]