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How the 'You are an idiot' trojan warned us of the dangers of Javascript

you are an idiot for normalizing javascript

In the early 2000s, there have been many developments, both good and bad, for web standards. There have also been many ways such developments have been taken advantage of. A very notable example would have to be none other than Javascript. Nowadays there are a huge amount of websites that almost exclusively use Javascript, and increasingly complex Javascript at that. However, even back when Javascript was new, it was truly a force to be reckoned with. It brought upon a new era of complexity to the web that would change everything, for better or for, arguably, much worse.

The you are an idiot trojan took advantage of this new web standard and utilized it to execute one of the greatest and most chaotic pranks upon computing back in the day that at least tens of thousands of people fell for. The way it worked was quite simple really. The site was originally called (then, and it was typically linked on a porn site so that it would trick those who were desperate in the moment to look for something to coom to, only to find that they would be greeted with a flash animation with text saying you are an idiot as well as 3 smiley faces, and it would flicker between black and white (but not that fast tbh so you probably wouldn't have gotten epilepsy). Heres where the Javascript magic kicks in...If you tried to close the browser, 6 more windows would appear spamming the animation and all the windows would start bouncing. If you tried to close one of them as their bouncing, even more would pop up, and before you know it, they're all over the place, your system resources are slowed to a crawl, and you have no choice but to shutdown. Once you're booted back into the computer however, everything is fine...unless you left an unsaved document open in which case, that is lost. However, thats not the trojan's fault. All the trojan itself actually does is annoy you and slow down your computer, but people would still blame it on the trojan, and to be fair, if I'm an average computer user in the 2000s and I come across a trojan like that, I would've assumed it did something malicious as well. However, the loss of files was only due to shutting down the computer without saving a file, which would make you lose it regardless of whether or not you have a trojan. Therefore, its the user's fault for not saving, so the user is an idiot.

Now I will say while I am talking about the original version of the virus, there is another one where it would boot back up on computer startup which is ofc much worse, but if you're using XP you can just use task manager to purge it and then proceed to remove it from startup services. If you're on 2000, its trickier but I've heard you can beat it if you hold Alt+F4 rather than just pressing it, and that allegedly makes it where you can close them rapidly enough to beat the duplication. After that, definitely make sure to remove that from startup. I've also heard there may be other versions that actually have malicious code, but keep in mind I'm mainly talking about the original since it was by far the most common and talked about, yet ironically it was also the most harmless of them all.

These days most people are smart enough not to click on suspicious links and fall for things like this. However, what if I told you that in the grand scheme of things, nobody has actually learned from this. Sure people are usually more cautious about where they go now, but did it never occur to anyone back then that maaaaaybe Javascript needs to be nerfed? (or just flat out removed) Think about the complexity, soyware, and unsolicited chaos that this language has brought upon the web. What used to be a place that was essentially for hosting documents online and simply sharing information and ideas with one another has become a place of corporate advertising, spying on everyone, censoring information, and shoving pseudostandards down our throat that only revolve around Google Chrome. And yes, I know that even back then things were not perfect. There was advertising as well as Microsoft shilling Internet Explorer when people just wanted to use Netscape Navigator just to name a few things, but overall, things weren't NEARLY as bad back then as they are now.

I don't know if things were just better back then due to limitations not allowing as much spaghetti code or if people actually cared back then, but I think its a mix of both...probably more of the former. I really do believe the you are an idiot trojan should've been taken as a warning sign for what would happen to the web in the future. If a trojan that basic can cause that much chaos, imagine the immesurable pain that Javascript is capable of causing. Actually, you don't have to imagine. These days while it may not be as common to see it in these in your face trojans that mock you by calling you an idiot, the funny thing is often times it happens behind your back now. Being spied on and becoming big tech's sheep product is so unbelievably common and there is so much malicious Javascript going on that most people are completely unaware of that if these people took just a second to inspect element and understand whats being executed in the background, they'd be way more scared of that then some trojan that was just made for a joke.

Imagine if every time current Windows made an unsolicited request/phoned home in the background, there would be a you are an idiot popup. There would be tens of thousands of windows spawning and your computer would run out of resources and crash even on modern specs and you wouldn't be able to do a thing about it. (you also can't even fully harden windows, so in this case the popups would literally be unstoppable). Of course that would be too obvious and Windows would completely die off, but because the spyware is something that happens in the background without your knowledge, you don't know and therefore you're not concerned. It's just sad seeing how zoomers talk about how the you are an idiot trojan is sooooo scary yet they don't even realize (or in some cases don't even care) what their operating system is doing in the background is a trillion times worse.

Needless to say Javascript is a joke. If theres anything you should take away from this, its to mitigate (ideally kill) your reliance on Javascript and use operating systems and software that don't spy on you and have lower attack surface so you're not having to cope with low hanging fruits like this that actually knowledgable computer users don't have to deal with.