As you know, today is April Fools’ Day. If what’s past is prologue, then you can expect to see about two dozen April Fools’ pranks from Google and YouTube (the fun started yesterday, in fact). And since there are now more than 101 Official Google YouTube channels, many of these pranks will include an April Fools’ video. Now, internet marketers and video content producers might assume that the YouTube team will create the funniest videos on April 1, 2013. But for reasons that escape me, Google is probably going to make this an uneven contest … again.
Perhaps it’s because Google got a head start over YouTube.
April 1, 2000
Google’s first April Fools’ Day prank, the MentalPlex circle, was launched in 2000, five years before “Me at the zoo” was uploaded to YouTube. Google invited users to project a mental image of what they wanted to find whilst staring at an animated gif.
April 1, 2008
In 2008, YouTube participated in Google’s April Fools' Day tradition for the first time. All the featured videos on YouTube’s homepages in the UK and Australia, and later, all YouTube’s international homepages, linked to “Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up," causing all users of the website who clicked on featured videos to be Rickrolled.
However, the Blogger dashboard on April 1, 2008, featured an announcement for Google Weblogs, or “GWeblogs,” or “Gblogs,” the next revolution in personal publishing. Features included algorithms putting your best content at the top of your blog, automatically populating your blog’s sidebar with the most relevant content, posting directly into Google search results for maximum visibility, blog headers refreshed with images from Google’s team of artists for anniversaries of a scientific achievement, and automatic content generation (“Unsure of what to post about? Just click ‘I'm Feeling Lucky’ and we’ll ‘take care’ of the rest!”) The announcement was followed by a link to a video tour of the product, which actually led to “YOU GOT TAY ROLLED! ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ Karaoke By Tay Zonday.”
On the same day, Google announced a joint project with the Virgin Group to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. This operation was named Project Virgle. The announcement included videos of Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, as well as Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, on YouTube, talking about Virgle.
So, YouTube became a player in the April Fools’ competition that year, but its prank video didn’t steal the show.
April 1, 2009
On April 1, 2009, YouTube gave some users a look at a new “viewing experience” when they selected a video within certain areas such as the “recommended for you” section. This new interface caused the whole layout including the video you were watching to flip upside down. A page on “tips for viewing the new layout” suggested users hang their monitors upside down from the ceiling.
However, Google countered by announcing CADIE, a new “Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity,” on March 31, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. And CADIE already had her own YouTube channel and several videos, including one featuring a Panda with a woman's voice that said, “Hello.”
And Google Mobile had also created a video that showed how CADIE technology had been harnessed to power “Brain Search through Google Mobile App.”
So, YouTube’s prank didn’t overpower Google’s videos that day, either.
April 1, 2010
On April 1, 2010, the logo of YouTube was overlaid with ASCII text repeating the character “1”. The YouTube logo was a reference to some videos having a new quality setting called “TEXTp”. According to a notice underneath the videos, viewing the video with this quality setting enabled YouTube to save one US dollar ($1) per second on bandwidth costs.
Meanwhile, Google UK introduced Translate for Animals (beta), an Android application that allowed humans “to better understand our animal friends.” The announcement included a modest little video entitled, “Introducing Google Translate for Animals.”
If both of these April Fools' pranks look pretty lame now, well, they both looked pretty lame back then, too.
April 1, 2011
On April 1, 2011, a button was added to the YouTube video player which, when clicked, would apply a video filter to the video and replace the audio with a recording of Rhapsody Rag, a piece typically played as background music to silent movies in 1911. If subtitles were enabled when watching the video, intertitles were displayed containing the dialogue. The upload page also featured an option to “send a horse-drawn carriage to me to pick [the video] up.” In addition, a few videos were made parodying several viral videos, such as the “Flugelhorn Feline.”
Finally, the YouTube team had created an April Fools’ video that they can still point to with pride.
However, Google stepped up its game that year, too. For example, the company introduced Gmail Motion, which used “your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands.” The announcement was accompanied by a video entitled, “Introducing Gmail Motion.”
Google also uploaded a video entitled, “Being a Google Autocompleter,” showing an employee explaining his job
April 1, 2012
On April 1, 2012, YouTube added a small disc on the right side of the YouTube logo, which when clicked leads to a page about a service called “The YouTube Collection.” It offered every YouTube ever uploaded on DVDs – dispatched in a fleet of 175 trucks. YouTube promoted the service with a video entitled, “The YouTube Collection: The Magic of YouTube in Your Hands.”
In other words, the YouTube team had created another strong contender. But, Google had taken its game to a whole other level.
Leading the way was the announcement of “Google Maps 8-bit for NES.”
Right behind was the video “Introducing Gmail Tap” for Android and iOS.
And my personal favorite was the video “Introducing the Google Fiber Bar.”
So, as you look for this year’s April Fools’ pranks, don’t be surprised if the Google team instead of the YouTube team has created most of the funniest videos again this year.