10 Great Google April Fools’ Day Gags

Net66’s look at ten of Google’s greatest April Fools’ Day announcements

Google. Much ado about Google. Google me the latest bus times. Choose Google Maps, choose a flashy Android smartphone, get me that Google Gulp from the fridge. Yes, we lied about the last one, Google Gulp was an April Fools’ Day gag from 2005 (more on that story later). Google has an extraordinary hold on our online lives and is proxy to many a business plan for SEO-related enterprises.

Amid the realpolitik of keeping the world’s favourite search engine going, Alphabet and its subsidiaries have a wicked sense of humour. Its best-known subsidiary, Google, have treated its users to several April Fools’ Day gags since 2000. When we say several, there has been hundreds of April Fools’ Day gags. Whittling it down to ten was the hard part. Without further ado, our favourite ten April Fools’ Day gags orchestrated by Google.

1. Google Gulp

Browsing can be thirsty work or mind-numbingly dull at times, so you sometimes need a bit of liquid refreshment. In 2005, Google had the answer with its range of energy drinks. Google Gulp – it claimed – would increase the intelligence of its drinkers. Its four flavours were Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta-Carroty and Sero-Tonic Water. Each of the flavours was inspired by the brain’s neurotransmitters.

2. Pigeon Rank

The bulk of Google’s April Fools’ Day announcements has been based around the animal kingdom. 2002 saw what could have been the first animal-based search algorithm (had it existed in reality, of course). Pigeon Rank, in 2002, was revealed as the belly and guts of Google’s search algorithms. It was claimed that PigeonRank was powered by linseed and flax kernels, so Google showed a diagram of the pigeon nibbling away at the kernels. This was referred to a Lin/Ax Kernels, a play on Google’s server infrastructure and Linus Torvalds’ operating system.

3. TiSP

Not a derivative programming language of LISP but a revolutionary network infrastructure system announced in 2008. TiSP stood for Toilet Internet Service Provider. Instead of digging up holes on local pavements, its broadband infrastructure would be relayed through the toilet’s U-bend and the wider sewage system. If implemented, Joseph Bazelgette’s system in central London would have seen fibre optic cables coexisting with urine and excreta.

The plan, it stated, would have offered free internet access at 8 Mbit/s (2 Mbit/s upload speed). With a paid plan, 32 Mbit/s. A PHD (Plumbing Hardware Dispatcher) would come in to install your cheap broadband connection.

4. Google Maps 8-bit for NES

With Square Enix as its co-conspirators, a 2012 April Fools’ Day prank saw the announcement of an 8-bit Google Maps for the NES. It was previewed on Google Maps, so as well as the usual Map, Satellite and Street View modes, your Google Map bore the resemblance of a Dragon Quest level. Though the map never made its way to a single Nintendo console, another version lives on within Brett Camper’s 8-Bit City page. Today, you can see the streets of New York and London in an 8-bit style.

5. The YouTube Collection

Imagine the adverts, coupled with some cheesy video footage: “Y-Tube proudly presents, The YouTube Collection, 40 of your greatest songs, comments and video clips on cassette, CD or LP… Not available in any shops.” Again in 2012, YouTube added a small disc on the right of the logo. Within this April Fools’ Day gag, subscribers were invited to order a physical form of their favourite cat videos and comments, for viewing at home at a later date.

There was also a fake shipping form which stated that no orders could be delivered till the 16 June 2045. Greyed out text at the bottom also read “Also April Fools”. Pah.

6. Pac-Maps

Last year saw one of Google’s much-loved April Fools’ Day gags, lasting for ten days. Google Maps added a Pac-Man style view. As well as transforming our cityscapes into Pac-Man style levels, there was an interactive element. It was possible to play Pac-Man on the streets of Stalybridge! The amount of press coverage and popularity ensured the longevity of this mode. For example, Forbes Magazine ran an article entitled The Best Places to Play Pac-Man on Google Maps.

7. Auto Awesome Photobombs with David Hasselhoff

Users of Google’s Auto Awesome were treated to some serious photobombing in 2014. That year’s April Fools’ Day gag enabled its users to add David Hasselhoff to any photo. Any holiday photos could have been enhanced with the Knight Rider star and German chart-topping vocalist. In double quick time, before you could say “looking for freedom”. We think a photobombing David Hasselhoff would be great outside Blackpool Tower, don’t you think?

8. Google MentalPlex Error Messages

The first Google gag on All Fools’ Day happened in 2000.  A series of hoax error messages were seen in the search results, via Google’s MentalPlex system.  These were based on the user staring at an animated GIF image.  These messages included:

  • Error 001: KUT Weak or no signal detected. Upgrade transmitter and retry;
  • 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 008: Interference detected. Remove aluminum foil and remote control devices.

Its results would return a number of references referring to April Fools’ Day. As you would expect, perhaps.

9. Google Romance

Before Tinder got us swiping left or right for a possible significant other, 2006’s April Fools’ Day announcement saw the arrival of Google Romance. This saw another use for Google’s algorithms where users uploaded a picture and found a potential partner through the I’m Feeling Lucky button.

10. Search results generated in different units

For our final one, we go back to 2010. For two days, from the 01 April, Google search result loading times were displayed in a number of different units. Rather than the usual seconds, loading times were also displayed in:

  • At warp X.XX;
  • 1.21 gigawatts;
  • X.XX hertz;
  • XX.XX jiffies;
  • 0.XX microfortnights;
  • 0.XX microweeks;
  • 0.XX nanocenturies;
  • 11.90 parsecs;
  • 23.00 skidoo.

This year’s April Fools’ Day gag?

We at Net66 cannot wait to see what Google has in store for this year. All will be revealed, possibly on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts or our blog.

Net66, 31 March 2016.