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Google declares end of YouTube in April Fools' prank

In an elaborate ruse, the world's most popular video site announces it's been nothing but a contest site this whole time and says it's going dark for the next decade.

Is the world's biggest video site about to go offline for a decade? Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

The best April Fools' pranks are absurd but also have a kernel of believability at their core just big enough to reel people in.

While the notion that YouTube has been a 8-year-long contest and Google is finally choosing a winner and shutting the site down tonight is pretty hard to swallow on its face, Google did shock many people by announcing the shutdown of Google Reader recently. Perhaps Larry and Sergey are beginning to go all Howard Hughes on us?

That's how the below video just put out by YouTube operates. The basic premise is that YouTube has been nothing but a contest to find the best video, and the 8-year-long submission period is finally closing tonight.

As YouTube's "competition director" Tim Liston -- a person who appears to be as fictional as his title -- tells us, YouTube will go dark for a decade to give thousands of judges 10 years to go through all the uploaded videos and declare one winner, which will be the only video on the site when YouTube relaunches in 2023.

What's even more hilarious in the video than the basic gag behind it is some great cameos by YouTube celebrities like Matt Harding, iJustine, the (now much older) kids from "Charlie Bit My Finger" and that "Evolution of Dance" guy.

"I encourage everybody to watch as many videos as possible before YouTube deletes everything tonight," Antoine Dodson warns.

Check the whole thing below, and hope along with me that this isn't the only April Fools' Day gag Google is pulling. Announcing the resurrection of Google Reader could be part of the joke, right? Right?