How Playing Notpron In 2005 Helped My Programming Career In 2017
April 5, 2020 Jamey Alea 0 Comments
Do you remember Notpron? I certainly do, although I distinctly remember it being called notpr0n—which I suspect is more a remnant of online culture in the late 2000s when it was originally popular than a Mandela effect. If you’re one of the more than 19 million people who have participated in this online scavenger hunt, it’s likely you have nostalgic feelings about it too. It was the first time I had seen anything like it, a puzzle game that wasn’t confined to the boundaries of a normal game in any of the ways I expected.
For those who aren’t familiar, Notpron has been called the “hardest riddle on the internet”—a worthy title for a 140-level puzzle that has only been solved by 66 people since it was created by David Münnich in 2004. (I want to reiterate that, because 66 out of 19 million is a wild ratio.) Most levels require a username and password combo that you have to figure out from the hints on the page, but some levels also require users to modify the URL of the page in order to progress. (This article won’t contain any major spoilers—Münnich rightfully insists that they’re against the spirit of the game—but as an example, the trick for getting from level 2 to level 3 is literally changing the “2” to a “3” in the URL. It’s sneaky like that right from the beginning!) Nearly all challenges involve taking a peek into the source code of the webpage, where various hints are hidden, and many require a deeper technical knowledge—of file systems and extensions, graphics and audio manipulation, or computer programming.
Read the whole article at Sidequest! It covers some of the same concepts that I went over in my CodeMash CTF article, but is aimed at a less technical audience, with a helping of early Internet nostalgia on the side!