At this point, Google’s April Fools’ pranks are more of a spectacle than an actual prank. By 9am there are already analyses and reports of what Google has done “this year,” and few people are actually fooled—it seems that the pranks are more of a thermometer for how creative Google can still be, versus their ability to really trick people.
With that in mind, we wanted to take the time to look back and admire Google’s creativity: from the good old days of 2000, when people were actually fooled on April Fools’, all the way up until our enlightened age of 2014, when news breaks before it’s even happened, and Google Glass isn’t just a fake technology used by Robocop.
So in no particular order, here are our top 10 favorites—some funny by common standards, and some that even MOZ might find a little too convoluted:
2006: Google Romance
Tagged with the motto: “Dating is a search problem. Solve it with Google Romance,” this was Google’s fake stab at online dating. Without a doubt, there were a lot of disappointed IT guys who clicked through to find it was only a prank.
On the bright side, it’s not out of the question to think this might actually be a thing some day.
In response to Topeka, Kansas temporarily changing it’s name to Google—in hopes of scoring a place with their fiber-optics expansion—Google decided to return the favor and change it’s name to Topeka. The went so far as to replace their logo, and it even showed up on their search results page.
2005: Google Gulp
,p>Google created a fake drink, promising that it would optimize the consumer’s use of Google searches by increasing your intelligence.
If only… chortled the SEO company’s Managing Director.
2007: Gmail Paper
Google announced its free new archiving option for Gmail users, subsidized by advertisements printed on the back of each page. The service would literally print off your emails on “96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum” which, by the way, is disgusting, and then snail-mail them to you.
All things considered, it might be the best way to keep the NSA off your back.
This was Google’s first prank, so you’ll have to forgive them for nerding out a little bit. The idea was that you stared at an animated gif, and projected a mental image of what it is you wanted. Search results pages would then display any number of humorous error messages, e.g. “Error 005: Searching on this topic is prohibited under international law.”
We won’t take that joke any further.
Again, not really out of the realm of possibility in this day and age, Google posted a job listing for the “Google Copernicus Center,” offering a job at a research center on the moon. Sounds like they’ve been talking to Richard Branson.
Speaking of Sir Richard, in 2008 Google announced a joint project with Virgin Group, offering users the opportunity to help establish civilization on Mars.
Video applications were submitted as a response to the YouTube video featuring Branson, and Google’s Larry Page & Sergey Brin. Hopefully some of those responses are still online somewhere.
Touting obscure SEO puns and PageRank jokes, this one wasn’t probably included in your Grandma’s email roundup of her favorite April Fools’ jokes that year, but it certainly gave the industry a good chuckle or two.
For this one, Google released their supposed system for ranking search results—promising no animals were harmed during the process.
2008 was probably Google’s best year for April Fools’, and their recently acquired YouTube was no exception. On the video site’s international homepages, every featured video linked back to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which is probably the greatest song of all time, featuring dance moves no man shouldn’t know.
2013: Google Nose
One of their more clever fake products, Google Nose promised an index of smells from all over the world, using photons and infrasound waves (whatever those are) to “emulate a particular scent.” The product even extended to mobile devices.
Bonus: Fun Fact
Since you made it all the way to the end, we figured we’d reward you with one of Google’s April Fools’ fun facts: Gmail was actually released just before midnight on March 31st 2004—meant to seem like an April Fools’ prank, because Gmail’s unprecedented convenience was almost too good to be true. Well played, PR department.
So keep looking out for Google’s next great trick—because, who knows, it may or may not actually be real.