Tech Time Warp: Google, King of April Fools’ Day

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 31, 2017 12:00:00 PM

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Pigeonrank.jpgNo doubt those Google tricksters are planning extra-special surprises this year, so consider this fair warning not to believe anything online April 1. In honor of April Fools’ Day, here’s a look at some of Google’s most memorable pranks.

2000: Mentalplex

Google’s first April Fools’ joke was Mentalplex, the “only search engine that accurately returns results without requiring you to enter a query,” designed to be “safer than traditional searching because it eliminates the need for typing.” (The Mentalplex FAQs are worth a read.)

2002: PigeonRank

To the delight of SEO experts, Google “revealed” its search engine secret in 2002: PigeonRank. Turns out Google results are especially useful because queries are routed to a data “coop” where flocks of domestic pigeons peck at the most relevant results—and that’s why results are displayed in “pecking order.” (Ba-dum-ching.)

2007: Gmail Paper

That guy in your office who prints everything (it’s not you, is it?) would love Gmail Paper, a service that sends you physical copies of your email. Do allow two to four days for delivery, and be prepared for advertisements printed in “red, bold, 36-point Helvetica.” (Comic Sans would have taken the joke too far.)

2008: YouTube’s Rickroll

On April 1, 2008, Google-owned YouTube got in on the action, turning every video on its home page into a Rickroll. (Bonus link: other epic Rickrolls.)

2016: Gmail Mic Drop

One of last year’s pranks didn’t make it through April Fools’ Day. Gmail Mic Drop drew such a backlash that Google turned it off in the wee hours of the morning. The feature—activated by clicking a button way too close to “Send”—allowed users to end an email chain with a microphone-dropping minion GIF.

Perhaps Google’s greatest prank was in 2004, when it chose April Fools’ Day for the invitation-only beta release of Gmail. More than 1 billion users later, Gmail is no joke.

Intronis blog

Tech Time Warp is a weekly feature that looks back at interesting moments and milestones in tech history.

Topics: Tech Time Warp

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