When I was growing up, April Fool’s Day was a hotly anticipated holiday—it was a chance for us put-upon schoolkids to even the scores with our teachers, parents, and any other authority figure that crossed our paths (except maybe the truant officer and the police). As a father, I now see my kids engaging in the same sort of shenanigans that marked April Fool’s Day when I was young. Sorry to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge before his visit from the three Christmas spirits in Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol , but to April Fool’s Day now, I say, “Bah, Humbug!”
April Fool’s Day is an absolute nightmare for a news guy like me, because it’s become a grand tradition for some companies that use the Internet as one of their primary methods of communication to send out phony press releases announcing products that don’t really exist or new services they have no intention of offering. By the end of the day, I’m usually shell-shocked at trying to figure out the real stuff from the hoaxes. And I always wake up on this day just a bit gunshy.
Often times, it’s easy to see through the ruse. The products are so outlandish, so bizarre, there’s no chance that they will ever see the light of day. ThinkGeek's iCopulate, a naughty-looking iPod-to-iPod transfer device, is a great example from this year's roundup. PodGear got in on the joke with their introduction of the PodShave and PodShaveLady iPod shaving attachment. And curse him, our own Christopher Breen got in on the joke too.
Other times, though, the companies hold their cards close enough to their vests that you can be fooled into thinking that the announcement is legitimate, only to find out later it was a hoax. A good example of that this year came from German software firm Equinux, who announced iJuice and Movie mini, a widescreen LCD display and portable power pack for the Mac mini that is actually a really good idea. When I called Equinux’s press contact to find out the real story, she told me that she’s received enough queries about it to suggest to her boss that they should get into the hardware business.
App4Mac announced 2Good, which they billed as free software that would let you run any Windows application on your Mac. The tiny file size was the first giveaway, but the fake installer made it pretty clear it was a joke, as it reported that it was installing Windows viruses, trojan horses and other garbage on your Mac as well. 2Good, by the way, is short for “2Good to be true.”
I’ll admit that Ambrosia Software had me going this morning with their release of ScreenCleaner Pro, which purportedly “alters the gamma of your monitor to compensate for monitor degradation.” But the giveaway for me was the info on their Web site that Macworld had rated the application “4.5 gems.” (We use mice for our ratings system, not gems.) It didn’t help that Macworld ’s Dan Frakes was complicit in the prank.
Your Mac Life host and producer Shawn King seems to have gotten at least one Mac news source to fall hook, line and sinker for his news that he was closing up shop, so you can see even those of us who should know better sometimes get fooled.
And in some cases, companies announce real products on April Fool’s Day. Google is a practical example: Today is the one-year anniversary of Gmail, Google’s Web mail service. When we ran the story about Gmail’s launch last year, several incredulous readers were convinced it was an April Fool’s Day prank—after all, what company in their right mind would give away 1GB of e-mail storage for free?
Well, today Google announced that Gmail’s capacity is expanding, and it ain’t no joke. The expanded capacity comes along with a host of other enhancements, including font support, bullets, highlighting, expanded browser support and more. But the timing could be better.
As it is, Google did get into the spirit of things by announcing Google Gulp, a new “smart drink” that purportedly changes your brain chemistry, presuming you’re willing to risk “hideous genetic mutation.” Of course, in traditional Google form, the spurious Google Gulp is a beta release.
As much as I hate these shenanigans sometimes, every so often, I must take my hat off to the writers and editors that come up with particularly funny and clever hoaxes. In that spirit, my award for this year’s best April Fool’s Day prank has to be The Mobile Music Blog's World Exclusive! First Look at iTunes Phone.