Google’s Best April Fool’s Day Pranks
Every year since 2000, except 2001 and 2003, Google has treated netizens to at least one, sometimes 17, April Fool’s Day pranks and easter eggs. And, since we know they love to play (check out their new Google Play offering), we’re hoping 2012 will be no different.
We encourage you to click through to the actual Google pages, because the hilarity of each prank must be fully explored.
The year 2000 was when the fun began. On the first of April that year, Google announced its new MentalPlex technology. This cutting edge web app would scan your brainwaves, browser history, current weather conditions and mouse speed to determine what website you were trying to access. All you had to do was take off your hat and glasses, look into the MentalPlex circle, project a mental image of the site you were looking for and visualize clicking in the circle. (You can still test the technology if you want to see how accurate it is.) A chilling premonition of a future where Google knows your every movement on the internet. Good thing that never came to pass. Oh, wait.
Google skipped doing a prank in 2001, but brought it back big time in 2002, revealing the way websites are really ranked by making public their PigeonRank system. This detailed Pigeon-based method involved the use of, well, pigeons, which are easily trained and faster than humans and computer algorithms at ranking search results. Google assured the public that the pigeons were treated humanely and allowed to spend off-time in break rooms “stocked with an assortment of delectable seeds and grains and feature the finest in European statuary for roosting.”
Google Copernicus, 2004
Again, Google skipped the prank in 2003, but decided it was time to bring it back in 2004. This time they were on the prowl for anyone who wanted to work for Google...on the moon, that is. On the first day of April, they began advertising job openings at the Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E) on the moon.
This “brave new frontier in search science” was touted as a “fully-integrated research, development and technology facility at which Google will be conducting experiments in entropized information filtering, high-density high-delivery hosting (HiDeHiDeHo) and de-oxygenated cubicle dwelling.”
Those who were not “capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, 'The Sopranos' and a steady supply of oxygen” needed not apply. ('Sopranos' jokes were topical back then, kids.)
Google Gulp, 2005
This was the year Google went beyond computer technology and delved into the vast market of sports drinks. They announced they were still in beta testing of Google Gulp, a line of “smart drinks” that was formulated to “maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.”
Developers at Google felt this was an important product to bring to market because their business is based on providing useful information, but “any piece of information’s usefulness derives, to a depressing degree, from the cognitive ability of the user who’s using it.” Google Gulp, while still in beta, was available in four flavors: Beta Carroty, Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical and Sero-Tonic Water. Of course, Google did reserve the right to transmit data about your usage of the product back to its GulpPlex servers via a wireless transmitter embedded in the base of the Google Gulp. Because jokes about how Google is collecting and storing your search data are always funny, right?
Google Romance, 2006
2006 was the year for love. To compete with Match.com and eHarmony, Google released its very own dating platform called Google Romance. Developers at Google had come up with “contextual dating,” theorizing that dating was “just another search problem.”
Users could post a Google Romance profile (or “multiple profiles with bulk upload file, you sleaze”), perform a Soulmate Search with Google’s “eerily effective psychographic matchmaking software,” and then endure one of Google’s Contextual Dates during which they would provide you with appropriate advertising from their partners. A Google Senior Vice President claimed in an April 1st press release that this targeted date advertising would “help you, ya know – close the deal.” Gives new meaning to the “I’m feeling lucky” button.
Google TiSp, 2007
It was the service we had all been waiting for, but no one could provide. In 2007, Google finally made it happen. On April 1st of that year, they released their TiSP, or Toilet Internet Service Provider. With this new service, Google would bring you free wireless internet by “connecting your commode-based TiSP wireless router to one of thousands of TiSP Access Nodes via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.” Customers could opt for faster delivery of purchases directly through the sewage network into their bathrooms.
Of course, purchases would come “pre-sealed in a watertight and nanobot-resistant bag made of biodegradable corn-based plastic.” Google was also developing a higher-performance version of the service for small and medium-sized businesses that would include, “24-hour, on-site technical support in the event of backup problems, brownouts and data wipes.” (Ewww.) It’s also notable that on that day, they released Google Paper, which allowed Gmail users to add emails to a cutting edge “paper archive.”
GMail Custom Time and More, 2008
By 2008, Google was prank-happy and played more than a dozen jokes. One prank involved the use of YouTube (by then, owned by Google) to "Rickroll" pretty much everyone. Google also unveiled their “AdSense for conversations” service that would display “ads that are relevant to the topics you’re discussing in an unobtrusive screen above your head.” They also announced the release of gDay software in Australia that would search and categorize websites 24 hours before they were even posted.
Gmail users could utilize a new service called Gmail Custom Time to assure all emails have been sent on time, by adjusting the time stamp on the email. (Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea.) Even better, “any email you send to the past appears in the proper chronological order in your recipient’s inbox. You can opt for it to show up read or unread by selecting the appropriate option.” You could never be accused of not having sent that important email again.
2008 was also the year Google announced their Virgle project, which was a joint effort with the Virgin Group to create a settlement on Mars.
CADIE and Google Chrome 3D, 2009
Even though April 1st, 2009 rolled around just after Google had made some hefty staff cutbacks, they decided pranks were the way to get back into the swing of things. So, instead of 12 or 13 pranks, they went even further with 17 Google gags. One of the biggest was the announcement of the 3D version of their Google Chrome browser.
First, they introduced CADIE, the “world’s first ‘artificial intelligence’ tasked-array system.” Then, it was CADIE who determined there was a disconnect between the real world and the online world, based on the difference in dimensions. Google would change this by presenting the web in 3D. CADIE would also change Google Maps by using a “combination of adorableness and exciting locations” to “produce an optimal mapping experience for humans.”
There was also the introduction of gBall, which would “change Australian rules football as we know it” and Gmail Autopilot, which could send auto response emails based on preset spelling, grammar and tone options. Autopilot would even terminate relationships if an email had an aggressive tone.
Google Changes Name to "Topeka" and More, 2010
At this point, the Google tradition of April Fool’s Day pranking is alive and well and cannot be stopped. Apparently fearing to look like slackers, Google played another 17 jokes in 2010.
The big news was YouTube’s new ASCII text filter that would offer a version of YouTube in text only mode, TEXTp, to conserve bandwidth while watching videos. This was touted as a cost-saving measure for YouTube. According to their blog, “For every person who selects TEXTp and keeps it on while you watch a video, you save YouTube $1 a second, resulting in potentially billions of dollars of savings for us.”
Google also surprised the world by changing its name to Topeka for the day. Topeka, KS changed its name to Google in order to get a spot in a Google broadband/fiber-optics offer and Google wanted to return the favor.
Another major innovation announced that day was the new ability to save anything to Google Docs. Not just documents. Anything. “Store your keys, remotes, rail passes, and other objects you commonly lose with Google Docs, and you’ll never have to worry about finding them again.”
GMail Motion and More, 2011
Google outdid themselves last year with almost 20 different pranks. On April 1st, they released Gmail Motion, with which you could control Gmail with your body movements. They also announced that all Google products would use the much-hated Comic Sans font from then on.
Bigger than that, Google China announced it would offer teleportation so users could time travel through the real time of a search. Google UK attempted to bridge the gap between humans and animals with Google Translate for Animals, while in the US Google launched the'80s workout tape-themed site Chromercise to “increase people’s hands’ strength and dexterity while browsing the web faster, and also allowing their hands to fit into sleeker, sexier gloves.” If you visited the site, you could even get a free Google Chrome finger sweatband.
What pranks will Google pull for April Fool's Day 2012? Stay tuned to TheFW to find out.