Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on April 1st, 2009

A Short History of Google Pranks

Every year for April Fool’s Day, Google delivers a hoax that are the topic of discussions at water coolers, collaboration stations, and geeky chat forums (guilty) for weeks to follow. The tradition is rich, and the anticipation grows stronger each year as March winds down. Here is a trip down nostalgia boulevard.

Google’s debuted their April Fool’s joke in 2000, two years into its own life. They announced a new “MentalPlex” search technology that supposedly read the user’s mind to determine what they wanted to search for, thus eliminating the step of the search query. This led to a page full of intelligently false results and thus began the tradition of their infamous follow-through and the pinnacle for geek humor each year.

In 2002, Google reveals the technology behind its PageRank Systems: PigeonRank. PigeonRank reassures readers that there is no animal cruelty involved in the process of ranking pages. The article makes many humorous references and puns based on techie terminology and pokes fun at how PageRank really works. 2004 saw Google posting fictitious job opportunities for a research center on the moon. Luna/X was the name of the operating system they claimed to have created for the research center.

Google Gulp, a fake drink, was announced by Google in 2005. According to Google, the beverage would optimize one’s use of the search engine by increasing the drinker’s intelligence. The drink came in four flavors: Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta Carroty, and Sero-Tonic Water. Google Romance, a parody for online dating, was announced on the Google’s main page in 2006. It was introduced with the tagline: “Dating is a search problem. Solve it with Google Romance.” It offered a “Soulmate Search” and had a link for “those who generally favor the ‘throw enough stuff at the wall’ approach to online dating.”

What may have been the best hoax to date, Google delivered a duo of pranks that sent people reeling. Gmail Paper was announced as a new service that offered a free webmail service to allow users to add e-mails to a paper archive, which Google would print on 96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum and mail via traditional post. Google also announced a free broadband service supposedly released by Google called Google TiSP (short for Toilet Internet Service Provider). The service would make use of a toilet and sewage lines to provide free Internet connectivity to its users. The user would have to drop a fiber-optic cable in the toilet and flush. Within 60 minutes the end would be recovered and connected to the Internet by a “Plumbing Hardware Dispatcher (PHD)”.

This year’s hoax was received with mixed reviews around the Volacci office. Google introduced “CADIE: a singular upgrade to your online life” through a link on its homepage. CADIE (Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity) is the world’s first artificial intelligence tasked-array system. An adequate backstory and description is provided, along with a link to CADIE’s blog and YouTube Channel. When you follow the link to the blog, you discover that CADIE is simulated as an adorable panda bear, who enjoys campy music that eerily resembles a bad attempt at the ‘Dig-Dug’ theme song. In her blog, she (male pandas don’t have eyelashes like CADIE) voices her annoyance at her creators and flaunts her intelligence like a one-day old artificially intelligence panda should. Google has a rich tradition of great pranks in past on the first day of April. This year’s may not have been their best, but there is sure to be many more chances to come for Google to fool you.

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