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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools Day

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Google and Gmail struck again this year on April Fools Day, fooling visitors with two separate April Fools Day pranks. Most people are on the lookout for potential April Fools Day pranks from their friends, family and coworkers. However, most people aren't prepared for a service that they use and rely on to try to prank them as well. Google, always the clever innovator, took advantage again this April Fools Day, with their "Virgle" colonization of Mars campaign and their Gmail "Custom Time" service.


The Virgle April Fools Day prank from Google was found as a link on the www.google.com page. It is a cross effort between Virgin and Google to colonize Mars and seeks out pioneers to participate in the adventure. The Virgle website (www.google.com/virgle/index.html) says that, "Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars." The Virgle website includes a hundred year plan for colonization including steps to pick a proper site and designs and specific plans for Virgle City.


The second April Fools Day prank that Google pulled off today was the Gmail Custom Time service. This service purportedly allows you to change the date of your email to a time in the past so you can be worry free for not getting that important email out in time.

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Your email would have the option to show up unread in the recipient's mailbox, absolving you of all blame. However, Google and Gmail remind you not to be just plain silly and outrageous, "You'll only be able to send email back until April 1, 2004, the day we launched Gmail. If we were to let you send an email from Gmail before Gmail existed, well, that would be like hanging out with your parents before you were born -- crazy talk." There is a complex scientific formula including the "Golden Ratio" that explains how only a certain number of these back-dated emails can be sent per person to avoid people, "[losing] faith in the accuracy of time."


While Virgle was easy to spot as an April Fools Day prank, Gmail Custom Time was a bit harder. It showed up in the top of the Gmail window, in the same fashion that Google and Gmail usually alert users about new services and updates. You actually have to read the page to find out it was in fact nothing but a good old fashioned April Fools Day prank. Bravo Google and Gmail, you had me going for those first 2 seconds.


April Fools Day, everybody's favorite unofficial holiday (although Guinness and other supporters of St. Patrick's Day may disagree) occurs every year on April 1st. This was not the first time that Google and their Gmail service pulled an April Fools Day prank on their visitors. Last year Google and Gmail introduced the Gmail Paper service, which sent you written versions of all of your email with advertisements on the back.
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