In recent times there has been a trend by companies, especially those centred around the internet and other such net based sources, to pull April Fools Day pranks on their users. Sometimes these pranks back fire, sometimes they are genuinely amusing but the pranks that stand out the most are the ones that are clever. Businesses such as Google, mentioned later in this list, are masters at the funny April Fool prank that some how manage to not enrage their users. In Google’s thirteen years experience pulling pranks, they have ranged from the convincing, to the obvious, to the out right fantastical.
What makes an online prank pulled by a business a success, is not how convincing they are, or how much hype they create but how engaging they are. If someone is pulled into the prank well enough, they are made to momentarily care, the following feelings of disappointment can be overcome quickly if the revelation moment can be turned into a moment of awe. The ‘that would have been awesome if it were true,’ feeling is largely what can be used to signal a successful online April Fools prank.
- Starting the list at number five is Hulu and the companies new line of shows that were supposedly meant to première in April 2013.
The April Fools Day prank saw the main page of Hulu showing upcoming releases that originated from other fictional televisual worlds. The prank saw the site feature shows such as ‘Captain Spacetime’ (from Community), as well as ‘Sick Sad World’ (Daria), ‘Mock Trial with J.Reinhold’ (Arrested Development), ‘MILF Island’ and ‘Rural Juror’ (both from 30 Rock).
Not only is this prank one that makes people double take but it is one that plays on the interests of its users. The cult following of a number of the shows featured are what make this prank such a classic. The excitement and momentary hope that fans of the show felt is enough to disappoint, however it is also enough to keep people laughing.
- Although not a company, the hype and following that George Takei receives on the Internet deserves note and thusly he comes in at number four.
The title ‘Master of the Internet’ should be awarded to Takei as each year, despite the date, millions of people fall for his April Fools pranks. In 2013, Takei posted that he would be playing the part of Master Ceti Maru, a member of the Jedi High Council, in a Star Wars movie. Never before have there been so many excited and then disappointed Trekkies and Star Wars fans.
In the previous year, Takei had also posted news about a new Star Trek movie. Detailing the characters involved and the cast, Star Trek: Excelsior saw the return of Captain Sulu. Each post was received by many hopeful fans, many of whom expressed glee at such new roles for the actor. I myself fell for this delightful prank and was saddened to know that the Internet explosion surrounding it was not, in fact, real. Additionally it is worth following Takei on Facebook or Twitter, not only for the impending prank but for the wide range of humourous material he shares.
- Coming third is Google which features numerous pranks on its sites each year.
Google always seems to embrace April Fools with pranks, starting with the MentalPlex hoax in 2000. Other past examples have seen numerous parts of the site embrace the day with pranks such as an 8bit Google Map, new Comic Sans font for everything and a Google Translate that could let you talk to animals, just to name a few.
Last year saw Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and many more feature April Fools pranks. Google Maps transformed into a treasure map, YouTube announced it was shutting now, Gmail revealed a new blue look with many more announcements being made across the Google-sphere. Every year Google rolls out numerous April Fools pranks and hoaxes such as Google Nose, a new product that allows you to search for smells and Google SCHMICK which allowed you to redesign your house on street view.
Needless to say, do not believe anything you see or hear about Google on April Fools Day.
- Coming in at second is ThinkGeek which is a wonderful shop that caters to all things geeky. Every year there is a perfectly time product release that, if one is caught out, is quite devastating.
Starting in 2001, the site released caffeinated meatloaf, a new Atari system, and remnants of the Mir Space station. Last year saw a release of a 3d Play-Doh printer, Bane Mask walkie talkies, an interactive Adventure Time Beemo, and an Eye of Sauron desk lamp. Sadly I as caught out and fell in love with the desk lamp. Upon entering the shopping cart page, I was sadly informed that, April Fools, the item didn’t exist. There is a silver lining however as due to the popularity of some of the items, ThinkGeek has actually manufactured a few of them. So no matter what is released, there is still a glimmer of hope!
- The BBC comes in at number one because of the long history the channel has of pulling April Fools pranks with the channels first one taking place in 1957.
The BBC has a long history as a reputable news and entertainment channel, therefore whenever the company releases a prank, it is one that causes a few moments of second guessing, none more so than the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest Hoax. Airing as a five-minute documentary, the prank details the process of one family from Switzerland who pick and grow spaghetti trees. Similar to that of Orson Wells, War of the Worlds radio play, when the video was screened on television a number of people saw and believed the clip.
Since then the BBC has kept up a long tradition of April Fools pranks. Other pranks include a Brawl taking place behind a calmly speaking news presenter, the replacement of the national anthem with a German anthem, smell-o-vision television, and in 2008, footage of Flying Penguins. The BCC tops the list though because it is believed that the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest was the first time that a company had used multi-media for April Fools.
Honourable Mentions: Netflix, deviantART, Virgin Airways, and Twitter (or Twttr)