Woe is the Internet on April 1. For it is on this day where sites large and small rack their brains for the perfect Fools’ Day prank, briefly vindicating those that continue to hold the belief that the Web serves as nothing more than a sloppy ocean of untruths and nonsense.
Even though the day isn’t even over yet, we here at PopSci are already longing for the saner and relatively pun-free comforts of April 2. Nonetheless, we still must raise our virtual dribble glasses in recognition of some of the more notable April 1 pranks today on the Web.
See our gallery of favorites here. Any we’ve missed? Throw them in the comments below.
Jumping the gun by a few hours and posting on April Fools’ Eve, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington announced a $25 million lawsuit against Facebook for using his likeness in its oft-decried Beacon advertisements. This one actually makes pretty good sense until the dramatic soy latte fight at the end, as I’m sure protecting his “rising personal brand” is something that goes through Michael Arrington’s head fairly regularly.
A prank only a hardcore typography geek could love, design blog The Serif unveiled a faux-font: Helvetica Serif. Gasp!
Gmail Custom Time
Obviously having way too much time on their hands, those fun-loving Googlers went all out this year, with each division offering up its own gag. Topping the list of the G-pranks was Gmail’s hypothetical “Custom Time” feature, allowing emails to be sent into the past. Unlike most of the jokes we’re seeing today, this one would actually be awesome to have in the real life. Maybe quit munching the complimentary organic granola and get to work on that, hmm Googlers?
Google Calendar Wake Up Kit
The Google Calendar team unveiled a “Wake Up Kit” in which “a bed-flipping device is included for forceful removal from your sleeping quarters.” Zzzz, maybe next year, Google Calendar. I’m going back to sleep.
Google Docs’ Paper Plane
Inside the file menu for Google Docs’ word processor is the “New Paper Airplane” option, which produces a template for folding an official Google paper plane.
Google’s main prank roped in Page/Brin buddy Richard Branson for an announcement of project “Virgle,” which aims to abandon our troubled Earth for a new Martian colony by 2014. Hats off to Google for making this one actually pretty dark and sinister. Filling out a faux application questionnaire to be allowed to follow crazy Sir Richard to flee our CO2-baked Earth for the Red Planet might hit a little too close to home for some Fools’ fans.
Wisely foregoing the drama of a single spectacular fib, gadget blog Gizmodo decided to simply hand posting privileges (and all graphics responsibilities, apparently) to renowned tech devotee Mr. T.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard delighted World of Warcraft gamers by announcing a new class of playable character: the Bard. Complete with Guitar Hero-like fretboard action, the Bard shreds WoW’s mages and knights with rock and roll. If only.
The Brits are ardent fans of the 1 April prank. Many may recall the BBC’s “Spaghetti Harvest” spoof of the 1950s, one of the earliest uses of a legitimate broadcast television outlet for first-of-April tomfoolery. Carrying on that tradition was this faux nature doc proclaiming the discovery of flying Antarctic penguins. The high production values here indicate someone in the BBC’s online video department spends a lot of time thinking about April Fools’. Watch it here.
This one is maybe my personal favorite—all featured videos on YouTube’s homepage resulted in a “RickRoll”—a recent Web meme that confusingly redirects unsuspecting link seekers to the video for Rick Astley’s 1987 jam “Never Gonna Give You Up.” I had no idea this was a Web phenomenon until today, and I also had no idea Rick Astley was white. Very white.
Announcing phony acquisitions/takeovers is one of the oldest tricks in the online April Fools’ book, but we had to include venerable Simpsons repository snpp.com’s announcement of a buyout by—who else?—Google.
The Pirate Bay
Also from the “maybe it’s true?” category is the Pirate Bay, a large Bit Torrent site, announcing the relocation of their servers to Egypt due to copyright law changes in Europe. They had me until the mention of a triple-redundancy fiber-optic Web connection in the middle of the Egyptian desert.
The Weather Underground
PopSci editor and meteo-phile Michael Moyer spotted this lengthy prank post on the Weather Underground blog. He writes: It’s actually a pretty clever parody of those who refuse to believe any scientific findings based on statistical or model data, and instead claim that only individual observable events count in the scientific discourse. It’s also 2,000 words, and involves Ouija Boards, grape Jell-o spiked with grain alcohol, Madame Cyclotropia: Psychic Readings for Troubled Atmospheric Scientists, psychomortorodentiatempestology, and the Natural Hurricane Center’s division of Global Warming Isn’t Responsible for the Recent Upswing in Atlantic Hurricane Activity, and Even If It Was, We Wouldn’t be Able to Tell, Since the Quality of the Atlantic Hurricane Database is Too Poor to Use for Such Purposes (NHC/GWIRRUAHAEIIWWWATSQAHDTPUSP).
Pii Pii Brothers
Another resource-intensive prank, Think Geek advertised a fictional Japanese Wii game that, you guessed it, involved toilets and an oh-so-witty Wiimote accessory. Check out their demo video and box mockup for the complete experience.