Google does April Fools': 'Custom time' and a Mars trip

Need an "e-flux capacitor" for your calendar, anyone? Also, Project Virgle has some fun with Richard Branson's space-adventure dreams.

'Custom Time' in action. Darn, I wish I'd had this when I forgot to ask my boss for some days off. Google

Happy April Fools' Day!

As expected, Google's Gmail rolled out a fake "custom time" feature, which purports to let users send e-mails into the past and consequently never miss important deadlines again. The new feature "utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality," Google wrote.

"I just got two tickets to Radiohead by being the 'first' to respond to a co-worker's 'first-come, first-serve' email," a fake testimonial on the Custom Time site read. "Someone else had already won them, but I told everyone to check their inboxes again. Everyone sort of knows I used Custom Time on this one, but I'm denying it."

April Fools' Day is something that the Gmail folks take very seriously--the product's real beta launch was, in fact, on April 1, 2004.

What, where's Bono and Project Red?

But the April Fools' Day shenanigans at Mountain View went well beyond Gmail. Google's home page provided a link to "Virgle," a faux collaboration on an "open-source" Mars expedition between the prank-friendly dot-com and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. "Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B," the site explained. "So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder 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 information about "Project Virgle" was accompanied by an application for interested "pioneers" and a video starring Page and Brin in which they look like they're having a lot of trouble keeping straight faces.

Other Google divisions joined in the April Fool's Day fun, too. The links to featured videos on YouTube's home page all directed to the music video for Rick Astley's 1987 pop song "Never Gonna Give You Up," which became a geek-culture phenomenon over the past year as the "Rickrolling" prank .

Google Calendar, meanwhile, offered users a "Free Wake Up Kit" to help users get out of bed in the morning.

"The 'wake up' notification uses several progressively more annoying alerts to wake you up. First it will send an SMS message to your phone. If that fails, more coercive means will be used," the fake announcement from Google read. "The kit includes an industrial-sized bucket and is designed to be connected to your water main for automatic filling. In addition, a bed-flipping device is included for forceful removal from your sleeping quarters."

An 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button on Google Calendar schedules random dates. Google

Google Calendar also added one of Google's famous "I'm Feeling Lucky" buttons to its scheduling tool, creating random events on calendars that inevitably involved dates with celebrities. (Except I didn't really feel lucky. I was only offered "dates" with Tom Cruise, George W. Bush, and South Park's Eric Cartman. None of them are really my type.)

Last year, Google had to deal with "no, it's not a joke" rhetoric when a live snake escaped in the company's New York office on April Fools' Day and representatives had to ensure both employees and the press that there were no hijinks in place.

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About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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