Oh, Internet: The Web's Best April Fools' Pranks
Every April 1, the web goes collectively insane. Here are the best recent pranks and fake-outs.
Annual holiday celebrations are what bind people together through the years. While Christmas, Easter and Halloween are treasured holidays in their own right, there are few days more revered on the web than April 1.
For, it has been ordained that on the first day of the fourth month, the internet shall take a break from its usual business and go collectively insane. This is the date when we feel compelled to "fool" websurfers into believing ridiculous un-truths.
And it's not just a time for snarky tweets and spurious Facebook posts. Even big, sprawling multi-billion dollar Google usually joins in the fun with an annual array of needlessly intricate make-em-ups. We get that Google is a for-profit entity that wants to show a not-at-all evil face to the public so that millions of people will feel comfortable handing them all our most private information. But the company has invested serious time and resources into producing comical April Fools' videos complete with actors, sets, extras and animal handlers.
Why? Because April Fools. That's why.
At this point, come 4-1, we all know that the fake-outs and jokes are coming. And rarely are they ever that funny or surprising. But it is a yearly tradition that harkens the coming of spring, or some such. So, endure this yearly ritual, we must.
We have scoured the annals of the web in order to find some of the most interesting April 1 pranks from recent years. Enjoy them today, because soon enough, the web will return to its natural state as a den of serious thought and contemplation.
Warner Bros. Acquires The Pirate Bay (2009Since major studios are hurting from piracy, it makes sense that Warner Brothers might purchase The Pirate Bay for $13 billion.
The Guardian Goes All Tweet (2009)In 2009, The Guardian decided to not only cease all print versions, but the web versions as well. Instead, the company opted to release content purely in tweet form. Really, what could the public learn from the Snowden revelations that couldn't be conveyed in 140-character missives?
Think Geek Plush Bacon (2010)Think Geek (aka Bizzarro world Amazon) has an annual tradition of throwing some cray cray item into the April Fools' mix, some of which become realized, purchasable products. But my favorite has to be 2010's Plush Bacon offering. It's both adorable and delicious!
The Hulu of 1996 (in 2011)If you've ever wondered how video-on-demand would have looked in the days of Netscape, then this 2011 April Fools' prank from Hulu is sure to induce some Seinfeld-era smiles. The streaming service created a retro look for its site that included the "latest" episodes of shows like Sliders, The X-Files and a revealing clip from Good Morning America about the new trend of ATMs charging surcharges. Missed that one? No worries, it's still available via The Wayback machine. Extra points for using old-school frame design (or negative points, whatevs).
World of Warcraft Introduces Crabby (2011)I'm not a big MMORPG guy, but I have used Microsoft Word in the 1990s. That's why I was delighted to see some WOW programmers put their talents into creating "Crabby: The Dungeon Helper," an animated crab designed to merrily aid players on their adventures -- just like Word's old happy little animated paperclip assistant. Or, as WOW put it back in 2011: "Crabby is able to tell you exactly what’s going on and what you should do. His many useful tips will appear in the bottom right corner of your screen, where he hangs out, ever patiently, waiting for you to need his help."
Etsy Acquires City of Portland (2012)If all-things-squee emporium Etsy were to buy an actual city, I suppose it would make sense that it would be Portland, Oregon.
All of YouTube on DVD (2012)Because why watch YouTube videos, when you can own and store YouTube videos in physical form? All of them.
AdBlock LolCats (2012)Sometimes a stupid prank is a good idea. In 2012, AdBlock author Michael Gundlach created a humorous pivot on the popular browser extension with the feline-themed CatBlock. As it turns out, there was an actual demand for a product that would replace intrusive web ads with pictures of adorable cats, and Gundlach released it. It's no longer supported by AdBlock, but you can download the source code and a Catblock extension for Safari and Chrome.
Google Nose (2013)I don't think 2013's introduction of Google Nose is particularly witty or interesting, but I will give a thumbs up to Google for so accurately capturing the spirit of a real product release video. It hits all the necessary tropes, including interviews with product managers staring confidently off into the distance, minimalist animation explaining the concept and unnecessarily stirring music.
Apple Newton Tote bag (2013)One of my favorite, geeky pranks from recent memory was bag maker Hex's 2013 fashion bag for the Apple Newton. While the bag was completely made up, the company did offer an accompanying contest where the prize was a very real, functioning Apple Newton. More big props for a very genuine-looking promotional video.
Sphero SelfieBot (2014)In 2014, Sphero turned the concept of a selfie drone into an April Fools' joke. A flying object that followed you and snapped photos? Bizarre! Well, not quite. By 2015, we got the (now-defunct) Lily drone, while the Hover Camera Passport was on display at this year's CES.
Virgin America and Nest Bring Total Temperature Control (2014)
Sir Richard Branson and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell joined up in 2014 to showcase an amazing new technology that allows flyers on Branson's Virgin Airlines to control the temperature at their seat with their own personal Nest thermostat. The clip actually has a very genuine sheen, complete with the required start-up ukulele soundtrack. Is it funny? Not necessarily, but it's a good attempt at a fake-out.
Unfortunately, this particular feature will never actually see the light of day. In 2016, Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America and soon after made the decision to nix the brand.
SwiftKey on a Physical Keyboard (2014)SwiftKey utilizes predictive tech and single-finger swiping on virtual keyboards, so perhaps it will work as well on physical keyboards? That's just what SwiftKey introduced in 2014! Or, actually, you know it's just another dumb tech prank. But in this one, everyone has British accents!
Toshiba DiGit Smart Glove (2014)This smart glove concept just barely tiptoes over the edge; you know something like it exists in a Silicon Valley R&D lab somewhere. It's a natural evolution of the Nintendo Power Glove.
MS-DOS Mobile (2015)Windows Phone never really lit the mobile world on fire. That's why it's not completely unfathomable that Microsoft would offer up an MS-DOS-based mobile OS complete with a c:\> interface. And by the way, this isn't just a clever tech video send-up, the thing actually exists.
T-Mobile Pets Unleashed (2015)This spot has all the profanity and in-your-face magenta you'd expect from a T-Mobile ad, but this one is geared for the animals in your life. Because which carrier would you trust with your pet's access to "Pet Tinder?"
Hulu Pets (2015)Described as the "ultimate streaming destination" for your favorite furry friends, the Hulu Pets channel was filled with trailers for original programming like The Real Pugs of Portland, The Mew or the above Laser Pointer: The Series.
Google Panda (2015)Cheers to Google for creating a fairly faithful product launch send-up. But this one's a bit of a weird choice in that Google Panda is basically just a fuzzy version of voice assistants like the very real (and much beloved) Amazon Echo or Google Home. I am sure that someday somebody will make a furry version of this.
H&M's Mark Zuckerberg Collection (2016)
Mark Zuckerberg: social media visionary, millennial folk hero, fashion icon? That was the idea behind a supposed new Zuckerberg fashion line, which is described on its official site as such:
This new gender-neutral minimalistic range was inspired by Mark's beliefs that making even the easiest decisions (like what to wear or what to eat for breakfast) consumes mental energy and gets in the way of doing more important things. That’s why we named this collection “One less thing to think about in a morning."