Fool me once: Seven internet hoaxes from April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day usually brings out the best, and sometimes the worst, in creative marketers and PR agencies around the world. To celebrate their efforts, we take a look at seven stories that grabbed the web’s attention in previous years.

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Brands have been releasing April Fools’ gags for more than a decade. Google alone pulled 17 pranks last year alone! But which jokes are the most memorable? Here are seven that have caught our eye.

We’ll also be keeping a live track of the best ones that we come across throughout the day, so keep checking back!

MentalPlex

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Google’s original April Fools’ joke, back in 2000, claimed that users could search for the things that the needed on the web with the power of their mind.

Google Mentalplex asked users to peer into a “MentalPlex circle” and project a mental image of the thing that they were searching for.

The service rarely worked and instead, delivered a host of error messages including “Error 666: Multiple transmitters detected. Silence voices in your head and try again”, “Error 8P: Unclear on whether your search is about money or monkeys. Please try again” and “Error: Insufficient conviction. Please clap hands 3 times, while chanting “I believe” and try again”.

Glass bottomed planes

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Last year, Virgin Atlantic sought to make air travel more fun. Armed with an idea and a copy of Photoshop, they showed us the future of aviation – glass-bottomed aircraft.

Yes, passengers could gaze below from 33,000ft in Virgin’s new glass-bottomed A320, admiring “the beauty of the British landscape”.

Views of the cargo hold, presumably, were not considered.

Twttr

Last year, Twitter announced that it was going to be introducing a two-tier system. It you wanted to keep using the Twitter that you knew and loved, it would cost you the princely sum of $5 a month.

However, for those less willing or able to pay, a new service was launched; Twttr – like Twitter, only without vowels. The sans-vowels version would be free to everyone and would roll out across the platform.

Twttr would offer you all of the benefits that Twitter offered, but only with consonants. In return, Twitter claimed that “by eliminating vowels, we’ll encourage a more efficient and “dense” form of communication.” #nvwls.

The closure of YouTube

Last year YouTube, they were getting ready to “finally pick a winner”. They would decide the greatest ever video in the history of YouTube – a video that would be immortalised as the greatest ever online video. That’s right, YouTube was closing for good.

Joining forces with The Onion, YouTube claimed that it would delete every single video, and that the site would not reappear until 2023 to post the winning video and nothing else.

Car-azy ideas

The automotive trade is, perhaps surprisingly, awash with pranksters trying to out-do each other on April Fools’ Day.

In years gone by we’ve had cars that are controlled by Nintendo Wii controllers, electro reflective paint and cars with wind turbines, but the mention has to go to Land Rover for its fastidious attempt to improve the world of car tax disc holders.

With Land Rover’s used to driving at all sorts of off-road angles, the company boffins sought to address the nasty side-effect that was misaligned tax discs. The company even went ahead and created a video in which the inventor, Mr Joe King, demonstrated the revolutionary technology.

Pigeon Rank

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We have had Penguin and Panda but in 2002, we had Pigeon Rank.

The secret to Google’s success, the firm claimed, was due to its ability to harness the “superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation”.

Apparently, your typical feral pigeon is very adept at distinguishing between items displaying only the minutest differences, making it the ideal fowl for selecting relevant websites – unlike the “birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl” as relied on by traditional, inferior search engines.

Gmail

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It may not have been a hoax, but it was greeted like one.

Gmail burst onto the scene on 1 April 2004 as an initial ‘invitation only’ beta test, offering users up to 1GB of data storage. Unsurprisingly, the announcement was met with some scepticism – at the time, rival services from Yahoo and Microsoft Hotmail offered just a tenth of that.

Google was also happy for users to send attachments of up to 25MB – unheard of for a web-based email system.

Of course, it was no hoax and today, the service celebrates its tenth birthday and more than 425m active users around the world. Happy Birthday Gmail!

Check back throughout the day as we collate the best (and possibly the worst) of April Fools’ Day 2014.

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