youtube, google
youtube, google

11 April Fools' Day Jokes From Google

youtube, google
youtube, google

Don't believe everything you read on April 1—especially if it's coming from Google. The company is notorious for its April Fools' Day pranks and got a head start this year with Google Maps Pac-Man. Here are a few pranks from past years. 

1. Google Maps Pokémon Challenge

Google teamed up with The Pokémon Company and Nintendo to develop an addition to Google Maps that allowed iOS and Android users the option to catch dozens of Pokémon creatures. Users simply had to launch Google Maps, tap "Search," and then "Press Start" next to a blue Pokéball icon to begin the hunt. Pokémon were hidden throughout the entire Google Maps interface.

According to a Google Maps blog posted on March 31, "We value employees who are risk-taking and detail-oriented, have deep technical knowledge, and can navigate through tall grass to capture wild creatures. It turns out that these skills have a lot in common with another profession—that of the Pokémon Master."

2. YouTube Gets "Rickrolled"

On April 1, 2008, all of the featured videos on YouTube UK and Australia took users to the music video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" instead of the actual featured video. The YouTube "Rickroll" was the first April Fool's Joke YouTube participated in as a Google-owned company.

3. WazeDates

In 2014, Google's GPS-based traffic navigation app Waze announced a partnership with Israeli-based dating software developer SingleSpotter to create WazeDates, which, instead of giving traffic updates, purported to help its users find compatible matches for potential dates. According to Waze's website, the service "alerts drivers to other likely singles on the road nearby. Wazers can adjust preferences to search for drivers based on age, sex, orientation and more. Once a desirable driver is found, users simply invite them to a destination by sharing their ride, or use Map Chat to say hello." Sadly, the whole scheme was nothing but an elaborate April Fool's Day joke—SingleSpotter wasn't even a real company.

4. Google Gulp

On April 1, 2005, Google announced Google Gulp, a new line of "smart" beverages that came in four flavors: Glutamate Grape, Sugar-Free Radical, Beta Carroty, and Sero-Tonic Water. Google Gulp was "designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty." It was a limited release beverage and only "available" if you returned a Gulp bottle cap to your local grocery store.

6. AutoAwesome for Resumes

In 2014, Google's April Fools prank was AutoAwesome for Resumes, a web tool that allowed users to spruce up their boring resumes with lively templates, emojis, and animation. Users would simply have to upload their resumes or CV to Google Drive and select hundreds of preset AutoAwesome features and options. The program also matched users with potential new jobs at Google based on their resumes.

4. Google Maps 8-Bit for NES

On April 1, 2012, Google announced a partnership with video game developers Square Enix to create Google Maps 8-bit for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Google Maps 8-bit for NES resembled a side-scrolling role playing game such as The Legend of Zelda and the original Final Fantasy. Instead of receiving a Nintendo cartridge from the Play Store, Google encouraged users to simply go to Google Maps online and click the "Quest" button to get the 8-bit version of the Internet service. The company also joked that a mobile version for the Nintendo GameBoy was in the works, too.

7. The YouTube Collection

In 2012, YouTube announced that it would start shipping the YouTube Collection—every YouTube video ever made on DVD with special comment index cards and green thumbs up stickers to like and red thumbs down stickers to dislike the videos. On the official YouTube Collection site, buyers filled out a Google Form to order the DVD set. After submitting the request, the page read, "Your order has been placed. Due to heavy demand, your anticipated delivery date is: JUNE 16, 2045," followed by, in smaller text, "Also, April Fools."

8. Google Translate for Emoji

Google built Emoji translations into Google Translate for Chrome on Android and iOS. On April 1, 2014, a “Translate to Emoji” option was included on all Chrome browsers, allowing users to convert text into fun symbols and facial expressions. Google's Emojify the Web campaign allowed people to consume Internet content "using efficient and emotive illustrations, instead of cumbersome text."

9. Google Fiber Bar

As Google started to roll out Google Fiber—the company's broadband internet and cable television service—to a number of cities across the United States, it also launched Google Fiber Bar as a way to build awareness of faster Internet speeds and good health. Google Fiber Bar was an energy and protein bar that purported to deliver "what the body needs to sustain activity, energy, and productivity."

“As we started thinking about fiber,” said Kevin Lo, General Manager of Google Access, “we realized that there hadn’t been real innovation in the fiber world in a very long time.” The bars weren't real, of course.

10. Google Nose

On April 1, 2013, Google announced Google Nose BETA for Chrome and Android, a web service that supposedly allowed users to search for specific smells and scents across Google's search index. Google claimed to use an advanced algorithm to recreate the smell and deliver the scent through the user's computer or mobile device.

11. Gmail Blue

On April 1, 2013, Google announced Gmail Blue, which made everything about Gmail...blue.

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Live Smarter
This $40 Wireless Keyboard is Solar-Powered and Might Just Revolutionize Your Workspace
Logitech
Logitech

Meet the $40 solar-powered keyboard that's about to make your life a whole lot easier.

The Logitech K750 Wireless Solar Keyboard can be charged by sunlight as well as artificial lights, like your desk lamp, and stays juiced up for at least three months in total darkness. With this innovative gadget, Logitech is eliminating the annoyances that come with other wireless keyboards, like constantly having to change the batteries or plug it in to recharge. Best of all, the Windows-compatible model is on sale at Amazon for $39.99, down from $59.99. Never fear, Mac users—there's a model for you, too (although it's slightly pricier at $54.88).

(Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy.)

Having a reliable wireless keyboard can save you time and undue stress, whether you work in a cubicle or a home office. Plus, at one third of an inch thick, the keyboard is so sleek that Logitech compares it to typing on a laptop (and Amazon reviewers agree). You can monitor the gadget's power level by downloading the Logitech Solar App for your computer. Setting it up is easy: Just plug the receiver into your computer and you're done. It also comes with a three-year warranty for peace of mind.

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Logitech

Customers rave about this gadget on Amazon: One person writes that it's "the single best keyboard I have ever owned." Another loyal customer notes, "I first encountered one at work, and I liked it so much that when I switched jobs, I had to get another!"

Take advantage of this deal on Amazon while you can. While you're at it, check out the $95 mattress that Amazon customers are losing their minds over.

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Pop Culture
How Mister Rogers Saved the VCR
Focus Features
Focus Features

In 1984, a landmark case laid down a controversial law regarding technology and copyright infringement. Here's a look back at the "Betamax Case," including the role Fred Rogers played in the Supreme Court's decision.

For many years in the pre-DVD/Blu-ray, pre-streaming era, the BetamaxSony’s prototype videotape player-recorder—was a punch line. A piece of technology that was quickly superseded by VHS and the VCR, it limped along in the shadows for two decades. And yet, it was the Betamax that gave its name to a court case that has played a pivotal role in both technological progress and copyright law over the last 30-plus years.

Like many other cool electronic products, the Betamax came from Japan. In late 1975, it was introduced to the U.S. by Sony, who touted its ability to “time-shift” television programming. In an era when most viewers still had to get up off the couch to change channels manually, this innovation was as futuristic as it sounded. Record a TV show right off the air? Are you kidding?

If the public was wowed by the idea, the major entertainment corporations were not. Universal Studios and Walt Disney Productions filed a lawsuit in 1976 to halt the sale of the Betamax, claiming that film and TV producers would lose millions of dollars from unauthorized duplication and distribution of their copyrighted content.

When the case finally went to trial in 1979, the U. S. District Court ruled in favor of Sony, stating that taping programs for entertainment or time-shifting was fair use, and did not infringe on copyright. Further, there was no proof that the practice did any economic harm to the television or motion picture industry.

But Universal, unhappy with the verdict, appealed in 1981, and the ruling was reversed. Keep in mind that up until the arrival of the Betamax, movie studios had received a cut of the box office or fee whenever one of their films was shown. Now suddenly here was a rapidly expanding scenario that undermined that structure. And in this scenario was the seed of much that would follow over the next 34 years, right through today’s ongoing battles over illegal streaming sites.

MISTER ROGERS GOES TO WASHINGTON

With large sums of money and copyright ownership at stake, the Betamax case arrived at the Supreme Court in 1983. By this point, nearly 50 percent of all homes in America had a VCR (VHS replaced Betamax, mainly because its tapes had longer recording capability) and sales of videocassettes were competing with theatrical box office. Universal Studios vs. Sony Corporation of America, nicknamed the “Betamax Case,” was argued for a year. It was a trial of extremes. On one hand, you had Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, yelling about the “savagery and ravages” of the VCR, and claiming that "the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." On the other, you had the testimony from Fred Rogers. Defending the VCR, he said:

"I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the 'Neighborhood' off-the-air ... they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions’ ... I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important."

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sony and cited Rogers's comments: "He testified that he had absolutely no objection to home taping for noncommercial use and expressed the opinion that it is a real service to families to be able to record children's programs and to show them at appropriate times."

The decision set two major precedents. The first upheld the original decision—that recording a broadcast program for later viewing is fair use. The second was, and still is, controversial—that the manufacturer of a device or technology that can be used for copyright infringement but also has “substantial non-infringing uses” can’t be held liable for copyright violations by those who use it. It’s kind of technology’s version of “don’t shoot the messenger.”

The same points of law would reemerge two decades later in cases against file-sharing sites Napster and Grokster (in the latter, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against them for trading copyrighted material). Of course, despite the popularity of legal movie and TV streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, file sharing continues. Whether it can be, or should be, stopped is a subject for another day. But it’s worth remembering that all the manufacturers of technology capable of copyright infringing (from computers to iPhones to DVRs) continue to sell their wares without fear of lawsuits because of the once-laughed-at Betamax.

To discover more about the fascinating life of Fred Rogers, check out Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the new documentary from Focus Features, which arrives in theaters on June 8, 2018.

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