It’s April Fools’ Day and the internet has been rife with stories, gifs and videos of poor souls that have been hilariously pranked in the spirit of mischief. Sticking with tradition, Google has treated us to a novelty of their own – head to com.google to check it out. And if you haven’t yet played Pac Man on Google Maps, go and do it now! This got me to thinking about all the little pranks and gimmicks that Google has introduced over the years, so here’s a round-up of some of the best… Way back in 2000, Google established their reputation as a digital prankster with the launch of MentalPlex, which invited users to project a mental image of what they wanted to find. Several humorous error messages were then displayed in the search results, including ‘Brainwaves detected in analog, please rethink in digital’ and ‘Multiple transmitters detected, silence voices in your head and try again’ and ‘Searching on that topic is prohibited under international law.’ In 2002, Google announced introduced PigeonRank. They claimed that search results were ranked based on the pecking of trained pigeons. The Google Copernicus Center was Google’s name for their planned research facility on the moon and was one of the company’s main 2004 pranks, complete with job opportunities to entice users into applying. This year also saw the launch of Gmail and their unbelievable 1GB of free storage space – a sneaky double bluff that actually turned out to be true. Another space themed prank, Virgle was a project launched in 2008 on Google’s main search page. Virgin and Googfle announced their mission to colonise Mars to make it suitable for human living and included online application forms to users to fill out. ‘Google Motion’ was announced in 2011. The company claimed that users could use their webcam and a series of (increasingly silly) body motions to send Gmail and edit Google Docs. This was also the year of YouTube’s 100th birthday, where videos were transformed into sepia toned silent movies with scratch and piano soundtrack. 2013 saw some pretty awesome April Fools’ pranks from Google. Some Analytics users noticed active visitors from the International Space Station – Control Room on their map. This is also the year they announced Google Nose in Beta, which would allow users to search by smell, and that YouTube would stop taking submissions and ‘select a winner’ from the uploaded videos. In 2014, the ‘auto awesome’ feature on Google+ (which automatically adds animations or filters to your uploaded photos) announced a new tweak that would include photobombs by David Hasselhoff. Google Maps users could travel around the world catching different kinds of Pokemon, and a new algorithm that could ‘translate web pages into emojis rather than cumbersome text’ was announced. Although Google can be more foe than friend at times for internet marketing service providers, their clever, thoughtful and funny pranks remind us why we love it!
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