Relive the greatest April Fools' web pranks of all time

Remember when Google announced a Mars colony and the BBC filmed a flock of rare flying penguins? Join us as we revisit some of the greatest April Fools' Day jokes to ever spread online.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
1 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Tribble-breeding program

April Fools' Day brings out jokesters everywhere, from Google to the Smithsonian Museum, and the internet is their preferred method for spreading the inanity. With a new round hitting online for 2018, we explore some of the finest pranks to ever grace the web.

In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum let its Star Trek fandom get a little out of hand when it introduced a Tribble-breeding program that featured a video of the furry little aliens reproducing at an alarming rate.

"I was skeptical," said Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, director of the museum, of the fictional program. "I'm more of a dog person. But now that they're here, I've warmed up to these little critters."

First published, March 31, 2017. 
Update, March 28, 2018 at 11:40 a.m. PT: Adds more pranks. 

2 of 21 Google

Google's Toilet Internet Service Provider

Google is a top purveyor of April Fools' jokes, but its 2007 introduction of the Google TiSP service still stands out. TiSP is a delightfully weird concept that involves hooking up your home to wireless broadband through your toilet. Google even created an elaborate set of installation instructions involving rubber gloves and feeding a cable into your porcelain throne.

3 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

YouTube on DVD

In 2012, YouTube introduced its "latest innovation," which let you "literally hold YouTube in your hand." The YouTube Collection promo video advertises a set of DVDs containing every video uploaded to YouTube. The collection comes with offline comment forms you mail to video creators. Delivery is via 175 trucks or by pack mule if you live in a rural area.

Talk about convenience.

4 of 21 Groupon

Groupon's Flat Earth globe

In 2017, Groupon waded into the flat-Earth conversation in the best way possible: with an April Fools' joke. It offered up a free Flat Earth Globe for customers to print out. 

The "globe" came with a wonderfully snarky product description. "Painstakingly rendered in all two dimensions, this realistic model of the Earth is based on the works of renowned astronomers Shaquille O'Neal and Kyrie Irving," Groupon wrote in reference to two famous basketball players who have been involved in flat-Earth discussions.

5 of 21 National Air and Space Museum

Wonder Woman's invisible plane

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is known for its impressive displays of famous and notable airplanes that dangle from the ceiling in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. In 2015, the museum cleared space for a unique exhibit: Wonder Woman's invisible plane. A deadpan video even shows workers on a lift dusting the unseeable aircraft.

6 of 21 Burger King

Whopper-flavored toothpaste

You like Burger King Whopper hamburgers. You also like to have clean teeth. Why not combine the two with Whopper Toothpaste? Burger King unleashed this whopper of a disgusting product idea for April Fools' Day in 2017. A commercial for the toothpaste says it contains "flame-grilled microgranules."

7 of 21 ThinkGeek

Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

ThinkGeek fans look forward to the retailer's annual parade of pranks every April Fools' Day. The tradition started in 2001, when ThinkGeek offered fake products such as Mir Space Station remnants and caffeinated meatloaf. A true legend was born in 2009 with the arrival of the Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, which is made to look like a gutted-out snow creature.

The sleeping bag was so popular that ThinkGeek made it into a real product available for purchase. It's fun to see each year's new batch of whimsical and strange inventions, but it's even more entertaining to guess which ones will become real offerings.

8 of 21 British Library

Unicorn cookbook

The internet loves to read about weird historical happenings. In 2012, the British Library posted a blog entry about the discovery of a long-lost medieval cookbook detailing a recipe for unicorns. The recipe supposedly starts with "Taketh one unicorne" and then details how to marinate and grill the mythical creature.

9 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Qualcomm's wolf-pigeons

In 2012, Qualcomm offered to take YouTube viewers behind the scenes at its top-secret research-and-development facilities. The company then detailed an insane project to implant tiny wireless base stations into wolf-pigeon hybrids. The straight-faced delivery and funny animal mashups in the guise of corporate propaganda makes this a winner. Also, it has shark-falcons.

10 of 21 Google

Google Gnome

Google's 2017 pranks included Google Gnome, an outdoor version of its Google Home smart speaker. The fake gadget is designed to look like a stylized garden gnome and showed up in the Google Store with the tagline "The smart yard is finally here."

11 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Flying penguins

Wait a minute ... penguins don't fly. That thought probably crossed the mind of the millions of people who watched the BBC's entertaining 2008 prank depicting a Terry Jones-hosted nature special about a group of flying penguins. The CGI birds take flight to a soaring soundtrack while filmmaker Jones provides a deadpan narration about the penguins hanging out in a tropical rainforest.

12 of 21 Virgin

Glass-bottom airplane

We're all familiar with glass-bottom boats designed to give you a view of sea life, but Richard Branson took the concept to an absurd extreme with his 2013 April Fools' introduction of a glass-bottomed plane for Virgin Atlantic. Branson's blog post includes faked photos showing the view from inside and outside of the cabin.

13 of 21 Google

Virgle Mars settlement

Virgin and Google joined up for an interplanetary prank in 2008 with the announcement of Virgle, a joint Mars settlement involving nuclear reactors, habitat modules, production plants, robotic vehicles and greenhouses. The joke involved videos from Virgin's Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

If Virgle were real, we would already have a human settlement on Mars. Unfortunately, it was just an elaborate April Fools' prank. Still, it's fun to read through the extensive details of how the colony would be built.

14 of 21 George Takei

George Takei runs for Congress

Outspoken actor George Takei, know for playing Sulu on Star Trek, announced he was running for Congress in California on April 1, 2017. What helped this prank gain traction is that it was actually pretty believable. Takei later posted a "Gotcha!" message on Twitter letting his fans know it was all a joke.

15 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Proton Pack

Every "Ghostbusters" fan's dream almost came true on April Fools' Day in 2016 when Sony announced a Proton Pack, the "the world's first ghost-catching device." The company touted its 30 years of collaboration with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (from the 2016 "Ghostbusters" reboot) and Dr. Egon Spengler (from the original movies). Sony describes it as "a product designed to capture content from a parallel dimension." It's also resistant to slime.

16 of 21 iFixit

Teardown of an orange

Repair-guide site iFixit got fruity for April Fools' in 2013 when it published an elaborate, step-by-step teardown of an orange. The process included blasting the citrus with a heat gun, poking and prying, and probing it with a screwdriver. The final step: slicing the skin in a spiral pattern.

"Though the orange's repairability is highly questionable, we do admire its end-of-life design. It is completely recyclable, compostable and delicious-able," iFixit noted.

17 of 21 Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

YouTube rickrolls everyone

Rickrolling, the practice of stealthily linking people to the Rick Astley video for the song "Never Gonna Give You Up," reached a new high in 2008. YouTube linked all the featured videos on its homepage right to Astley's song for a musical April Fools' joke.

18 of 21 Dan Baines

Mummified fairy

Artist and magician Dan Baines sent the internet into a tizzy for April Fools' 2007. Baines created a clever mummified fairy prop and issued a press release detailing the discovery of a barrow containing 20 well-preserved fairy bodies. Baines posed his creation with a police evidence bag to help sell the hoax. After much press coverage, he admitted to the fabrication and in 2014, launched a successful mummified fairy Kickstarter project.

19 of 21 Matvey Choudnovsky/Kolya Fabrika

Mark Zuckerberg for H&M

If Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg collaborated with clothing retailer H&M, it would look a lot like a prank from April Fools' 2016. The Mark Zuckerberg x H&M collection contains seven basic gray T-shirts and one pair of jeans. It sports a perfect tagline: "One less thing to think about in the morning."

The parody site came from marketing strategist Matvey Choudnovsky and designer Kolya Fabrika and isn't associated with either Zuckerberg or H&M. The only thing missing is a basic hoodie.

20 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

April Fools' prank goes viral

In 2014, YouTube user Josh Weiland Photography posted a video with the title "Best classroom April Fools prank ever." The video, which has nearly 55 million views, involves a professor with a policy of requiring anyone whose phone goes off during class to answer the call on speakerphone.

A phone rings and a young woman answers it on speakerphone. The caller pretends to be from a pregnancy resource center phoning to tell her she's pregnant. The mortified professor apologizes, but the student tells him it's OK and she's already planning to name the baby "April Fools."

21 of 21 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Artisanal toilet paper

Toilet-paper maker Quilted Northern made hundreds of thousands of people feel uncomfortable with its parody of artisanal products in 2016. A pitch-perfect video shows a craftsman making toilet paper by hand. Quilted Northern then introduces its new, very painful-looking Rustic Weave toilet paper. "For a more memorable bathroom experience," the narrator intones.

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