Companies that only exist on April 1st
A new stock named "A.F.P." appeared on the bulletin board of the Detroit stock exchange. Little was known about it except that the initials were supposed to stand for "American Fire Protection." Despite the relative mystery, the new listing prompted lively trading. It opened at six, rose rapidly to 12, dropped down to 2, and finally climbed back upward to 8, where it remained. But eventually someone thought to contact the Michigan Securities Commission to ask if this new stock had been sanctioned by them. They responded that "A.F.P." was not authorized, so sales of it were illegal and each broker was responsible for his own losses. At which point, word got around that the initials actually stood for "April Fool Preferred." The identity of the prankster who listed it on the board was not known.
The Elkhart, Indiana Daily Truth
reported on a local company that manufactured devices such as the "Chasemaway" to protect Victory Gardens:
"The 'Chasemaway' is merely an adaptation of an old idea. A small phonograph, with loud-speaker attachment, is to operate at regular intervals. Every hour, on the hour, for example, the mechanism will start, and the 'Chasemaway' will shout, 'Gitthelloutahere.' This one is designed primarily for use in the rural areas; more refined language will be provided for those sold for use in town."
magazine reporter Peter Funt announced the creation of the first 24-hour a day cable food network called KNOSH.
(Apparently the idea of a 24-hour a day food network seemed silly in the days before Emeril Lagasse.)
magazine reported that Turner Broadcasting was going to merge with NBC. The new logo of the resulting company (TNBC) would show a peacock wearing Ted Turner's trademark railroad engineer's cap. Ted Turner would personally add some variety to the new company's entertainment lineup by co-hosting a country music show called "Atlanta Howdown" with Slim Whitman and Barbara Mandrell. On Cable
magazine received angry phone calls from executives at both NBC and TNT complaining that their management had taken such a step without informing them first.
Scott Simon reported for NPR's Weekend Edition
about an Iowa company called "Doug Be'net" that sold only descriptions of items, rather than physical items. Customers dialed a toll-free number and chose from 24 monthly selections ranging from under $16 to nearly $40.
Simon reported, "All that exists of the items are those words. Doug Be'net is an inventory of ideas and adjectives rather than products. The company stocks no actual merchandise, and therefore, spends no money on manufacturing, consumer warranties or product maintenance." The company was said to have made $1.5 million in sales the previous year. Its primary market was "the same professionals who rent art movie videos and get gourmet food to go. Consumers with limited time but expansive tastes."
NPR subsequently received numerous calls from listeners interested in contacting the company, including one from a Federal Trade Commission employee who wasn't sure if it was a joke and wanted more information. The president of NPR at the time was Douglas J. Bennet.
A press release issued over Business Wire announced the creation of Webnode, a new company recently granted a government contract to regulate ownership of "nodes" on the Next Generation Internet (NGI). Each of these nodes (there were said to be over 50 million of them) represented a route that data could travel over the NGI. The company was licensed to sell each node for $100. Nodes would increase in value depending on how much traffic they routed. Owners would also receive usage fees for the data that flowed across their section of the internet. However, only individuals could own nodes, and no person could own more than 1,000 nodes. This limit was supposedly made in order to avoid monopolization of the internet by large corporations.
Although Webnode was not yet a publicly trade company, the press release declared that shares in the company could be reserved for later purchase, although no payment would currently be accepted. Because the Next Generation Internet was a real government project, many were led to believe that Webnode was also real (which, of course, it wasn't). Business Wire, however, didn't find the prank amusing. It sued the creators of the press release.
Website builder Vivid Studios debuted vBay, an eBay parody, which offered users the chance to "sell your junk" or "buy somebody's junk." Potential buyers could peruse auctions such as a Hotwired 1.0 commemorative lunch box, a "drastically reduced" portal kit, and an unclaimed "Cool Shopping Site of the Year" award. The site also included a special section for "antiques that aren't fakes."
Magazine profiled a revolutionary new internet technology called Orecchio (Italian for "ear"). This technology used the TIDE communications protocol (short for "Telepathic Internet Data Exchange") to allow users to compose and send e-mail telepathically. To e-mail telepathically users wore a device nestled between their ear and skull. The company developing this device was Tidal Wave Communications, led by Yuri Maldini, a computer genius from Estonia. Adding credibility to the story was a reference to some real research at Emory University in which researchers had allowed a paralyzed man to move a cursor across a computer screen by implanting a device in his brain. Mr. Maldini, who had once been employed by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, claimed that he had developed the idea for Orecchio from the encrypted communications systems he had put in place during the Gulf War and the conflict in Somalia. Nevertheless, despite the revolutionary potential of telepathic e-mail, skeptics abounded. Clarence Madison, managing partner of New World Associates, was quoted as saying, "I know crap when I see it. This is crap." Ignoring such critics, Mr. Maldini was pressing ahead with his plans to commercialize Orecchio. He even was anticipating future features such as telepathic web browsers and word processors and the ability to receive e-mail telepathically as well as send it.
At the end of the Red Herring article the reporter recalled a moment when he asked Mr. Maldini how big the market for such a product might be: "Mr. Maldini falls silent. He stares vacantly for several moments out his office window and then says, 'I just sent you an email with my answer.' Upon returning to our office, we find the response waiting: 'It's going to be huge,' reads the email. 'Simply huge.'" Red Herring received numerous letters from readers admitting they had been fooled by the article.
introduced its readers to an exciting new company called Freewheelz in an article titled "There Are No Free Wheels." Freewheelz planned to provide drivers with free cars. In exchange, the drivers had to place large advertisements on the outside of their vehicle (such as ads for StayFresh Maxi Pads). Ads would also play constantly on the radio inside the car. Prospective drivers had to go through a screening process, requiring them to submit stool samples and notarized video-store-rental receipts.
The article satirized the much-touted "new economy" created by the internet. Readers who didn't realize this barraged Esquire
with phone calls, wanting to know how they could sign up to drive a StayFresh minivan.
By April 2000, the dot.com bubble was rapidly deflating. This didn't deter hundreds of Dutch investors from lining up to buy shares in F/rite Air, which was being billed as a hot new technology company backed by supporters such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and George Soros. The announcement about the company's IPO was posted on iex.nl, a financial web site for Dutch investors. It was reported that shares in the IPO could be reserved for $18 each by email, although it was said that analysts anticipated the stock soaring to above $80 on the first day of its filing. The company seemed like a sure thing, and almost immediately orders worth over $7 million flooded in. The orders didn't stop coming in even after the newspapers had revealed the IPO to be an April Fool's Day joke. F/rite air was a pun for 'Fried air' (i.e. Hot Air).
NPR's All Things Considered
revealed that a California-based company, LunarCorp, had developed a laser powerful enough to project images on to the surface of the moon. It planned to use this to beam advertisements onto the moon, turning the earth's satellite into a giant billboard.
In late February, a Dutch company calling itself The Honest Thief
announced it would host a new, totally legal file-sharing service. It explained that it was able to do this because a recent Dutch court ruling allowed the Netherlands to become a legal haven for file sharing companies.
Large amounts of press attention followed, including an article in the Wall Street Journal
. But visitors to The Honest Thief website on April 1st were met with an announcement: April Fool! There was no legal file-sharing network. The hoax was a stunt to promote a book of the same name (The Honest Thief
) by Pieter Plass.
The website of Cyclone Dairy appeared online in late March 2009, purporting to represent "the first dairy brand to offer great-tasting products made exclusively from cloned cows." The smiling family featured on the site's front page included a young boy missing his front teeth.
On April 1st, ice cream-maker Ben & Jerry's
revealed it had created the site, hoping to raise "consumer awareness of the government's recent approval of cloned milk and meat within the human food supply chain."
The website HowStuffWorks described a new startup company, ReBubble, that was coming out with rechargeable chewing gum
. The gum could be "recharged" by placing it in a special recharging station, the ReCHEWvenation Chamber, that plugged into either a standard power socket or connected to a computer via a USB cable. "After it finishes charging, the gum should have the same taste and texture as it did fresh from the package." The gum would eventually come in five flavors, although the only flavor currently available tasted like "grape with a hint of ozone." However, there were reportedly problems if people ate partially charged-sticks of gum. But the company was trying hard to prevent "catastrophic gum failure."