What is it about April Fools' Day jokes that we love so much? Perhaps it's that, in the midst of the crushing influx of information that many of us cope with daily, a well-constructed prank provides a welcome break. For a moment, we smile, even when the joke is a tried-and-true chestnut.
Google has a strong tradition of sublime hilarity each April 1. Last year, the company announced two faux products designed to elicit a chuckle from unsuspecting (and suspecting) readers: Gmail Paper (6GB of messages, rendered as hard copy) and Google TiSP, a plumbing-based Internet Service Provider dedicated to harnessing the underutilized potential of the nation's "dark porcelain." (See writer Tom Spring's complete slideshow for a retrospective of Google's April Fool's and other fun inventions over the years.)
In recent times, many other sites have pulled our collective leg with April Fools pages marked by realistic graphics and ridiculous but deadpan copy. Here are ten of our favorites. Just click the linked header for each entry to see the prank (or its fallout) come to life.
10. Facebook Funnies
Last year, Facebook users noticed some unusual entries scattered among News Feed updates, including the announcement of a new LivePoke feature, in which invited users to dispatch a real live person to physically poke their Facebook friends (offer limited to first 100 members of a network). Another entry reported that Harry Potter and Voldemort (more of a MySpace kind of guy anyway) had returned to their former relationship status as mortal enemies. Good work, guys, and better luck next year on moving up our list.
In late March 2007, Dan Baines posted a Web page describing (and illustrating with detailed photos) the discovery of what appeared to be the remains of a "real" fairy. Baines claimed that the mummified fairy corpse was recovered along an old Roman road in Derbyshire, England, by a dog-walker who preferred to remain anonymous. The bones of its diminutive, human-like skeleton were hollow, like a bird's, making it "particularly light," an anatomical peculiarity whose contribution to airworthiness was enhanced by the body's extremely leaflike--uh, lifelike--wings.
Over the next several days Baines, a magician and prop-maker, received hundreds of messages from credulous and (and in some instances worried) fairy-loving readers. To put their minds at ease, he revealed the hoax. Eventually Baines sold his creation on eBay for £280.
Sometimes, a prank's premise is so plausible that you have to ask yourself: "Why isn't there a product like that?" When iLounge posted breaking news of a new video-playing iPod V from Apple on March 31, 2004, no one took the bait. The real video iPod, which was just around the corner, made too much sense for the iPod V prank to be funny.
But wags at the now-defunct PodGear.net had more success with their electric-razor attachments for iPod Classic or Mini. Several Apple news sites posted tongue-in-cheek reviews of these ersatz iPod accessories, leaving many wondering, "Does my back hair need grooming--and can I dance to it?"
If we can believe Wikipedia's own Wiki page on the subject (at first unqualified, but subsequently clearly labeled as a joke), the popular user-created reference site was nearly absorbed by venerable dead-tree competitor Encyclopedia Britannica on April 1, 2005. Despite the promise of handsome severance packages for the founders of what was slated to become known as Wikimedia, the deal likely fell through--perhaps due to the onerous financial burden it would have placed on contributors to the newly merged publications. Though future costs were estimated at an astronomical £99.97 for each page creation or edit, the new Wikipedia promised to offset them by offering contributors a chance to win a rare photo of Margaret Thatcher from her days on the burlesque circuit.