Lately, it seems like there’s no one on the Internet who can resist the temptation to try to pull off an April Fool’s prank. Often, that leads to a bunch of jokes that fall flat, but some years are better than others, and 2011 has been one of those. Below, Adweek looks at some of the day’s hits—and misses—from this year.
(Click on the headers to be taken to April Fool's pages.)
In response to The New York Times’ newly erected paywall and the shots that the paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, has taken at it lately, the Huffington Post announced that it will be erecting its own subscription service—applicable only to employees of the Times. A message advertising “A special offer for New York Times employees” supposedly appears on the screens of NYT staffers, reading, “We hope you’ve enjoyed your one free article this month.” The first six letters of each word (and “slide shows of adorable kittens”) will be free, it explains, but after that, Times employees will be forced to subscribe to an “NYT Employee Digital Subscription Plans Ò.”
The joke comes with some barbs. Arianna Huffington’s post detailing the paywall ends by telling readers that “of course, stories that aggregate falsehoods to support an administration's efforts to take the country into a disastrous, decade-long war based on lies will always remain free.”
Google always revels in April Fool’s, and this year is no different. One of its pranks was an announcement of a new feature in its e-mail service: Gmail Motion. Instead of continuing to rely on “outdated technologies like the keyboard and mouse,” Google says, why not control Gmail with your body?
Google also served up a video interview with one of the guys supposedly behind the auto-complete suggestions in its search engine. He can type 34,000 words per minute!
In a cruel joke on those poor souls in the States who have long dreamed of finally having their own version of the music streaming service Spotify, TechCrunch reported on the imminent launch “Spotify USA.” Because, according to Sean Parker, one of Spotify’s earliest U.S. investors, “Europe isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? America.” (It’s a nod to one of the fictional Sean Parker’s lines in “The Social Network.”)
Due to the “uncertain” intellectual trademark ownership of April Fools’ Day, Groupon announced its intention to purchase the holiday (henceforth known as Groupon Presents April Fools’ Day™). It will be “the same lighthearted holiday as before, only now, Groupon is the only legal source for April-based hoaxes as outlined in our pending trademark application.” Want to buy the rights to a historically themed prank call? Go ahead, it’ll only cost you $760. And don’t even think about creating your own joke, otherwise be prepared for Groupon’s “friendly, but swift, but hostile, legal actions.”
LinkedIn’s April Fool's joke is, unsurprisingly, pretty tame. You might notice that the “people you may know” aren’t exactly friends of friends or business contacts—unless you count Sherlock Holmes, Ernest Hemingway or Groucho Marx among your connections.
Hulu’s prank site reminds us of just how much of a pain surfing the Web was in the '90s. The site, best viewed in Netscape 3.0, comes complete with infuriatingly slow-loading images, a practically prehistoric Geocities layout and a 1996 copyright. The site will certainly make viewers appreciate their high-speed connections, but with programming like The X-Files and My So-Called Life, they might wish that the whole thing wasn’t a hoax.