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Geeky in-jokes dominate April Fools' Day 2010

Fake movie trailers, Tiger Woods as a Microsoft spokesman, and inflatable laptops are among the spoof news stories to emerge on the Web for April Fools' Day.


If you work on the Internet, it seems like you either love or hate April Fools' Day, which has become just about any tech company's excuse to make fake product announcements or attempt to mislead readers. This year was no exception: Though there was no "Hotelicopter"-like prank that actually fooled reputable news sources, fake news was more ubiquitous than ever.

Most of 2010's gags, to be honest, aren't all that funny if you don't get the tech industry in-jokes referenced. But a few, like the In-N-Out Burger prank in New York, were pretty darn good. Also worth noting: we haven't seen a single Rickroll.

  • Google, of course, went all-out. In response to the campaign by the city of Topeka, Kan., to temporarily rename itself "Google" to entice the search giant to choose it as a test market for ultra-fast Internet service, Google announced that it has changed its name to "Topeka."

  • Google also started changing the listed speeds on search result pages to fake units like "7.49 warp" and "23.00 skiddoo."

  • Meanwhile, Google's Gmail announced that it was experiencing a "vowel outage" and could only display consonants, a playful dig at its occasional real outages. The Google Mobile team claimed to have developed an Android application that translates the noises animals make. YouTube announced a low-bandwidth version that translates its videos into...text.

  • As is customary, Wikipedia purposely fudged the details in its fact-of-the-day sections, publishing factoids like that in 1970 "The first of over 670,000 Gremlins were released into North America to crush imported machines" (the Gremlin was a kind of car) and "that residents of Castleford, England, were incensed when their council tried to eliminate Tickle Cock." (Tickle Cock is the name of a bridge.)

  • Flickr announced a "revolutionary" photo-sharing device called the FlickrPad: it's a pad of paper with photographs taped to it.

  • Nerdy retailer ThinkGeek announced a lineup of almost-plausible new gadgets and products, including a plush "My First Bacon" designed to teach the wonders of bacon to small children, and a Dharma Initiative alarm clock which, like the bizarre computer system on the TV show "Lost" that it's modeled after, goes off automatically every 108 minutes.

  • Hulu sent out a press release about its new 3D technology.

  • It's not fake news, but we're not sure that New York Times media columnist David Carr could've gotten away with an entire post about how the iPad is the next generation of toilet reading on any other day.

  • Men's e-mail newsletter Thrillist showcased a fake start-up called "MeetingRoulette," which takes the ChatRoulette craze and claims it's now being used so that office types can practice their business presentations via video chat in front of random strangers, "far better than practicing for your mom, who thinks everything you do is great, and totally doesn't understand Keynes' theory of price stickiness."

  • Toshiba "unveiled" an inflatable laptop called the TubeTop

  • Business reviews site Yelp put out a fake reality show casting call, "Yelp Across Amerika," which chronicles "the misadventures of a rag-tag group of urban foodies as they 'yelp' across the country in a tricked-out Yelp RV." Actually, this one is sort of believable: Daily-deals company Groupon really is doing this, sort of, launching a Web campaign to challenge an obsessive fan to live entirely off Groupon deals for a year, traveling the country in the process. It's not a reality show, but close.

  • And on that note...Groupon itself took a dig at luxury sample sales in the vein of Gilt Groupe by putting out a press release for "Groupoupon," an over-the-top luxury retail site offering fake products like a collage made of money (retailing for $249,999 "plus cost of raw materials") and which requires "proof of status" for membership that can be backed up with media like silver-mine deeds and sex tapes.

  • CIO News reported that Microsoft, which once hired Jerry Seinfeld to star in a series of ads, was picking up embattled golfer Tiger Woods as its next pitchman.

  • In what's actually a well-constructed gag, Yahoo posted an entry on its corporate blog announcing that the Federal Communications Commission was looking into fining CEO Carol Bartz for violating broadcast standards by using foul language on network television. Bartz has been known to, well, shoot her mouth off at times.

  • This was another good one. Online frat-culture powerhouse CollegeHumor took to the streets rather than to the Web, posting "coming soon" signs on boarded-up facades in New York to fool locals into thinking that famed California fast-food joint In-N-Out Burger was coming to New York. The city's ubiquitous food blogs seemed to realize off the bat that it was a prank; CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen posted a mobile photo of one of the signs to his blog, making it appear that he'd fallen for the gag, too.

  • Remember "Smellovision?" Well, Kodak claimed to have perfected "Aromatography," with the help of new developments in "Neuro-Optic-Nasal-Sense Imaging."

  • Scientific journals Nature and Science announced their merger, purportedly funded by Facebook to create an excessively social-media-soaked publication that "will be called either Scientific Nature or Natural Science depending on the result of a text-message vote by the scientific community."

  • News Corp.-owned gaming site IGN posted a fake trailer for a movie version of the "Halo" video game series--in real life, a "Halo" film has been linked to big Hollywood names like Neill Blonkamp, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, and Steven Spielberg, but has never made it into development.

  • Opera Software sent out a press release about its "Future Opera Operations in Lunar Surroundings program," which will launch the first Web browser to be used in space.

  • CNET sibling site Crave UK had an exciting headline: "Man arrested at Large Hadron Collider claims he's from the future."

But surprisingly, some companies were making real announcements on April 1, and readers may have hesitated at first to figure out if they were being punked: eBay announced that it had received a favorable ruling in its legal spat with Tiffany & Co. over counterfeit listings; women's personal finance site LearnVest announced a $4.5 million funding round led by Accel Partners; and Gawker Media acknowledged the departure of well-regarded investigative reporter John Cook, who is joining a revamped news staff at Yahoo.