When you operate the most widely used email service in the world, you'd better be really, really careful with April Fools' jokes that change how it works.
That's what Google learned when it placed a joke "drop the mic" button right next to Gmail's regular "send" button as an April 1 gag. The joke button would insert into the email message an animation of a character from the movie "Minions" dropping a microphone -- a gesture to show you've gotten the last word in an exchange -- and then would mute the email conversation. Mute is a longtime feature of Gmail that hides conversations you don't want to follow and prevents future responses from showing up in your inbox.
Google removed the joke button and apologized after it started causing problems for people.
The animation was funny enough for people who want to joke around. But with a billion people using Gmail each month, even a small misfire is a big problem. Many on Google's product forums aren't laughing, especially those who use Gmail for work.
"This mic drop is perhaps the most stupid thing you could possibly come up with," complained one user. "I have been interviewing with this company for 3 months now and mistakenly sent the email directly to guess who? The HR!"
"I just completed and questionnaire via e-mail for a JOB and accidentally hit the send + mic drop button!!!" another said. "GOOGLE I WANT THIS FEATURE TURNED OFF!!"
When the joke feature arrived Thursday, Google noted in a blog post that replying to an email with the April Fools' mic drop feature means "everyone will get your message, but that's the last you'll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won't see it."
On Friday morning, the company backtracked with an update to the blog post. "Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We're truly sorry. The feature has been turned off."
Another critic was Andy Baio, former chief technology officer of crowdfunding site Kickstarter. He tweeted that Gmail was inserting the drop-the-mic gif even when people used the ordinary send button. Baio also sketched out this hypothetical disaster scenario:
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.