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Google’s April Fools' Day Hoaxes – 2000 to 2010

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Epiphany

Tying up the loose ends

Google loves to have fun with its users. This is highlighted by the annual Google Aprils Fools' Day Hoax appearing at the bottom of the Google homepage as a fairly inconspicuous link inviting you to try their ‘latest technology.’, This then prompts great reactions from the online community from “please let this be real!” to “WTF?”. Google also has a history announcing actual products and feature enhancements on April Fools’ – helping to perpetuate the “is it real?” online buzz around each hoax. From 'mind reading search' to ‘Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity’ pandas, there’s been a huge range of Google hoaxes – here’s a brief overview of the hoaxes from years gone by.

2000 - MentalPlex

The first public Google April Fools’ Day hoax, MentalPlex, invited users to project a mental image of what they wanted to find while staring into an animated gif. MentalPlex also came with a FAQ (see Q.10 - Troubleshooting) and a great results page which featured the following error messages:

  • Error 01: Brainwaves received in analog. Please re-think in digital.
  • Error 001: Weak or no signal detected. Upgrade transmitter and retry.
  • Error 008: Interference detected. Remove aluminum foil and remote control devices.
  • Error 005: Searching on this topic is prohibited under international law.
  • Error: Insufficient conviction. Please clap hands three times, while chanting "I believe" and try again.
  • Error 8P: Unclear on whether your search is about money or monkeys. Please try again.
  • Error 666: Multiple transmitters detected. Silence voices in your head and try again.
  • Error CKR8: That information is protected under the National Security Act.
  • Error 144: That information was lost with the Martian Lander. Please try again.
  • Error 006: Query is unclear. Try again after removing hat, glasses and shoes.
  • Error: MentalPlex(tm) has determined that this is not your final answer. Please try again.

MentalPlex is also arguably the most effective April Fools’ hoax by Google simply because it was the first. In the following years, we all became suspicious of any new content or announcements from Google around the 1st April! Interestingly these old pages from Google also give us a nice (nostalgic) view at Google’s look and feel from years gone by, as well as their search practices. For example, at the bottom of the MentalPlex page, the footer also offers to allow you to perform the search on competing search engines: This feature was removed in 2009.

2001 – ?

Seemingly in 2001 Google didn’t do an April Fools’ Day hoax. Even having a browse through the WayBackMachine to look at the Google home page from 2001 doesn’t show any suspicious links and neither does the page mark-up. Although the Google home page did feature a series of ‘slogans’ throughout April 2001, including:

  • Search. It's all we do. Test our results.
  • We're happy to be judged by our results.
  • We don't ask questions. We just give answers.
  • At 1,000 searches per second, your answer is found before your finger leaves the "enter" key.

2002 - PigeonRank

In 2002 Google let the world know how it manages to provide fast and accurate search results with PigeonRank™. The PigeonRank page is littered with technical puns from pigeon clusters (PCs) to “Lin/Ax.” There’s also some great one-liners: “By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings.” “While some unscrupulous websites have tried to boost their ranking by including images on their pages of bread crumbs, bird seed and parrots posing seductively in resplendent plumage, Google's PigeonRank technology cannot be deceived by these techniques.”

2003 - ?

No April Fools’ this year from Google.

2004 - Googlunaplex

Quite a lot of effort went into the 2004 April Fools’ from Google. Several pages dedicated to the Googlunaplex, which would: “house 35 engineers, 27,000 low cost web servers, two massage therapists and a sushi chef formerly employed by the pop group Hanson.”

2005 – Google Gulp

Google Gulp! Now in four great flavours! Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta Carroty and Sera-Tonic Water! Google Gulp claimed to increase intelligence, maximise search efficiency and also quench thirst. What else could you want from a drink? This hoax features a great FAQ pages that includes the Google Cap Gmail style ‘invite a friend’ parody, a fun over-the-top privacy policy (see page footer), and “from forest to freezer” product history featuring a chemical representation of the Google/Gulp logo.

2006 – Google Romance

At the time, a great online dating parody, although with Google’s product expansion continuing at an amazing rate, along with an explosion in growth for online dating sites over the past couple of years – I’m not sure it’s the last we may have seen of Google Romance. Building on the common theme for past Google hoaxes, there’s a Romance FAQ, product tour and some fun error pages for posting profiles, mass uploads and search results, along with a  press release too. To the relief of some users, Google did at least mention on the Romance pages that it was a hoax.

2007 – Gmail Paper

Another parody based hoax by Google.  This time it’s on the good old “paperless office” concept that has been predicted so many times since the advent of PCs. In fact many sites online cite that we now use more paper than ever because it’s so easy to just click ‘print’ and wander over to the printer. “Now in Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail.” – Gmail Paper also helped promote the young Gmail service which was still operating under the “invite only” viral scheme. Google also started to expand its hoax offerings with a second Toilet Internet Service Provider (TISP) hoax making an appearance. A simple parody of the arrival of ‘do it yourself’ router-modem installation kits offered by ISPs to their customers. Keeping to form of previous hoaxes, there’s a dedicated press release, FAQ, custom error page and also installation page.

2008 – Dajare, gDay, Google Book Search Scratch and Sniff, Virgle

The April Fools’ of 2008 signified a new trend in Google hoaxes – local and country specific hoaxes mixed together with a range of mini-hoaxes. It looks like Google decided to capitalise on the popularity of their previous hoaxes by putting in some serious effort!

2009 - CADIE

This was the year of CADIE, Google’s new Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity that pretty much took over the web for one day.

2010 – Chrome Source, Google Translate for Animals

Google created a huge amount of hoaxes and Easter eggs in 2010, including references to the sudden surge in cloud based technologies with Google Docs “Store anything in the cloud”. Here are just a few:

2011 –

What will we see from Google tomorrow? Among the usual flurry of hoaxes and Easter eggs, will we see any new ‘real’ products or feature enhancements? Maybe the rumoured Google Circles will make an appearance?