A message distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the internet took) announced that the Soviet Union was joining the network. This generated enormous excitement, since most Usenet members had assumed cold war security concerns would prevent such a link-up.
The message purported to come from Konstantin Chernenko (from the address chernenko@kremvax.UUCP) who explained that the Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to "have a means of having an open discussion forum with the American and European people."
The message created a flood of responses, but two weeks later its true author, a European man named Piet Beertema, revealed it was a hoax. It is credited with being the first hoax on the internet. Six years later, when Moscow really did link up to the internet, it adopted the domain name 'kremvax' in honor of the hoax.
When America Online subscribers logged in to the service on April 1st, they were greeted with a news flash: "Government source reveals signs of life on Jupiter." This headline was backed up by statements from a planetary biologist and an assertion by Ted Leonsis, AOL's president, that his company possessed documents that proved the government was hiding the existence of life on the massive planet. The story generated over 1300 messages on AOL, and hundreds of people called the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California trying to obtain more details about the discovery.
An email message circulated warning that the internet would be shut down for cleaning for 24 hours from March 31st until April 2nd. This cleaning was said to be necessary to clear out the "electronic flotsam and jetsam" that had accumulated in the network. Dead e-mail and inactive ftp, www, and gopher sites would be purged. The cleaning would be done by "five very powerful Japanese-built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274) situated around the world." During this period, users were warned to disconnect all devices from the internet. The message supposedly originated from the "Interconnected Network Maintenance Staff, Main Branch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
The joke was an updated version of an old one that used to be told about the phone system. For many years, gullible phone customers had been warned that the phone systems would be cleaned on April Fool's Day. They were cautioned to place plastic bags over the ends of the phone to catch the dust that might be blown out of the phone lines during this period.
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."
Google unveiled "MentalPlex"
search technology that read the user's mind to determine what the user wanted to search for, thus eliminating the need for typing. Users were invited to peer intently at an animated spinning circle while projecting a mental image of their search request.
If the MentalPlex circle was clicked, search results for "April Fools" appeared, as well as a notice that MentalPlex was "unclear on whether your search is about money or monkeys."
An announcement appeared on the website www.opecinfo.com declaring that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after 22 hours of emergency negotiations with independent fuel operators, was close to deciding to offer motorists around the world free fill ups on the first Saturday of each month for the next six months. Motorists would simply have to print out and complete an online form which they could then present at any gas station to receive their free fill up.
Some commuters took the announcement seriously and appeared at gas stations with their completed forms, demanding free gas. However, the OPEC website and announcement were the creation of JokeWeb.com, an online humor site. A spokesman for the site claimed that JokeWeb.com would honor the offer and pay all those who had filled out the form $50 worth of gas every Saturday for the next six months.
A newsletter posted on the official website of Darcey Bussell, the Principal Ballerina of the Royal Ballet, announced that Bussell would be starring as the next Bond woman opposite Pierce Brosnan. Filming would begin in August, with a title sequence being shot at the Royal Opera House. During this sequence she would wear a rubber catsuit — which an accompanying photo showed her modeling.
Bussell was pregnant at the time. However, she anticipated that she would have enough time after delivering her baby to get back into shape for the Bond role. This announcement was picked up by both the Sun
and Evening Standard
and reported as fact.
The BBC reported
that school-lunch authorities in the UK had banned chips (french fries) from school canteens: "They reckon the fave food is unhealthy, so have decided kids won't be able to eat it any more - you'll all have to eat lumpy mash instead! Government food expert Professor Steve P.U. Denton said that although they knew the decision would be unpopular, they were making it so kids would be healthier. He added: 'We're very sorry that we have to do this, but kids spend so much time playing computer games now we have to help them keep fit another way.' The head of the UK Chip Authority, Fry Smith has slammed the move, saying he couldn't understand why chips have come in for special treatment."
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.
Thinkgeek.com introduced the George Foreman USB iGrill
, the "low-fat, high-bandwidth solution to your networked cooking needs":
"The George Foreman USB iGrill conveniently connects to your home or office PC using USB 2.0 technology, and provides a sophisticated web-based cooking interface. Download recipes, enter in the type of food, weight and desired degree of doneness, and the iGrill handles the rest. Did you know that a medium rare 1/4 lb. hamburger made from 80% lean beef takes 1 minute and 45 seconds less cook time than an identical patty made from 95% lean prime Black Angus? The iGrill does. As your meal cooks, the subtle glow from under the unit increases brightness and pulses faster until your meal is perfectly done."
The website BetterHumans.com posted news of the first case of a human catching a computer virus:
"A software developer from Houston, Texas has become the first human to contract a computer virus, microbiologists have confirmed. John Newman, an employee of vTouch Systems, came into contact with the virus through the use of a neural interface that his company is developing. Avril DuChamps, a spokesperson for vTouch Systems, confirmed yesterday at a press conference that Newman had come down with the virus. All activities at vTouch have been suspended until further notice."
An elaborate website appeared online announcing that an Atlantic Tunnel connecting the UK and the US (and running beneath the entire width of Ireland) would be opening in September 2009: "The world is about to witness the dawn of a new era of trans-continental travel. It has taken 63 years to complete the 3261 miles of tunnel from Swansea to New Jersey. In 2009, that same journey will take passengers and their vehicles just 8 hours and 20 minutes." The site also featured a competition to win a trip on the first train through the tunnel. It's not clear who created the site, or why, but the site was registered to a London ad agency, TBWA/GGT.
Thinkgeek.com, an online retailer of offbeat gadgets, continued a multiyear tradition of posting fake gadgets on April 1st by debuting the PC EZ-Bake Oven
: "It fits in a 5 1/4" drive bay and plugs right into your power supply with the included Molex connector… The PC Ez-Bake oven can even be used to cook your Pop Tarts, Bagel Bites, or any tiny or flat food. YUM!"
announced that all the major Christian denominations had jointly agreed to make Oprah Winfrey the fourth member of the Holy Trinity, thereby broadening its appeal and making it less gender-biased: "Along with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the popular talk show host will be recognized as one person in the sacred and indivisible unity of the Godhead—or Quadhead, as the updated Trinity will now be called."
In response to the news, Oprah's production company issued a statement: "This just confirms what millions of Americans already know: that Oprah is a goddess—and one completely compatible with Christian faith." However, the Russian Orthodox Church had not supported the deification of Oprah, noting that "the current structure leaves no room for the possible addition of Dr. Phil."
Google announced they were accepting applications for positions at Copernicus Center, their new "lunar hosting and research center." Applicants, Google noted, must be "capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen." Google went on to say that the facility, set to open in Spring 2007, would house 35 engineers, 27,000 low cost Web servers, two massage therapists and a sushi chef.
Visitors to the website of discount airline RyanAir were greeted by the news that as a special April Fool's Day offer kids would be allowed to ride free. A few seconds later the announcement added the second part of the offer: "For as long as they can hold on."
Bob Carroll, creator of the online Skeptic's Dictionary
, announced that he was abandoning skepticism and embracing a Christian belief in divine design. He attributed his conversion to an epiphany that occurred after doing yardwork: "I came in afterward and noticed that there were several weeds stuck to my socks and shoes. It was like a hammer to the head. I started to see the patterns. There was clearly a design here. The weeds excreted a sticky substance that allowed them to cling to my clothes. When I moved around I carried their seeds with me and had unwittingly deposited them throughout my yard. Soon, my yard would be crawling with weeds and I would have been partially to blame. But I wasn't concerned about the yard. I had a bigger problem. I had seen that randomness could not account for the weeds' behavior. Yes, behavior. What else could it be? The weeds clearly know what they are doing. They didn't just accidentally cling to me. There is no way this was just matter randomly and meaninglessly behaving in a way that looked like design. This was truly design at work."
Visitors to the search engine AskJeeves.com found the company's signature animated butler clothed in an undershirt and patterned boxer shorts instead of his usual jacket and tie. The company attributed the new look to a "wardrobe malfunction."
The Jeeves character was discontinued after 2006, and AskJeeves.com itself became Ask.com.
Retailer Gear4 unveiled the iRon:
"The iRon™ is a revolutionary cable free travel iRon™ for the iPod™. Simplicity is the key to the iRon's design, simply unfold the iRon™, fill with water, dock your iPod™ and "Steam Your Tunes". The iRon™ uses the iPod's battery for power and the steam jets are controlled by the tunes playing on the iPod™ . Thanks to GEAR4's unique SteamTempo™ technology, the jets spray in time to the music – fast, bass heavy tunes producing more steam and softer music providing less."
PopXpress, a UK chain of stores dedicated to iPod and MP3 accessories, unveiled the iPop Bra, a product designed to help people keep "abreast of music":
"The new bra incorporates a concealed pocket for your iPod or MP3 player and control buttons built into the fabric. Available in white or black and in cup sizes ranging from A to F, the ipopBra has been designed so you can keep the smallest of gadgets right next to your biggest assets."
Images of an 8-inch mummified creature resembling a fairy were posted on the website of the Lebanon Circle Magik Co. Accompanying text explained how the creature had been found by a man walking his dog along an old roman road in rural Derbyshire. Word of this discovery soon spread around the internet. Bloggers excitedly speculated about whether the find was evidence of the actual existence of fairies. The Lebanon Circle website received tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of emails. But at the end of the day, Dan Baines, the owner of the site, confessed that the fairy was a hoax. He had used his skills as a magician’s prop-maker to create the creature. Baines later reported that, despite his confession, he continued to receive numerous emails from people who refused to accept the fairy wasn’t real. He later sold the fairy to an American collector for £280.
The social networking site Facebook posted a notice about a new feature called LivePoke allowing users to "dispatch a real live person to poke a friend of your choice." The offer was said to be good for only the first 100 pokers in each network. The joke was a reference to Facebook's "poke" feature, which causes a poke icon to appear on another user's home page.
Wisconsin-based blogger Peter Hart posted a news article on the community news site WauwatosaNOW.com, claiming that the local Mayfair Mall planned to start using face recognition technology to scan for known criminals. The story fooled a reporter for WTMJ-TV who reported it as fact on the 4 pm news show.
DJs from North Dakota's Y94 radio station created a website called tattooyourtoddler.com that claimed to represent "the first tattoo studio for kids, with the trendiest body-art designed specifically for youths ages 2 through 17!" Parents who wanted to tattoo their child were promised that "Our patented needle-free system only causes slight discomfort and ensures a vibrant tattoo, guaranteed not to fade for at least 10 years!" The FAQ section of the site included the question: "Is this legal?" To which the reply was: "This is still America, isn't it?" A similar April Fool's Day hoax had been perpetrated in 2003 by DJs at at Channel 933 KHTS-FM radio in San Diego who created a site called BabyInk.com, which claimed to be a tattoo parlor catering to infants and children.
Google announced a new technology called TiSP
(Toilet Internet Service Provider) that would allow it to provide free in-home wireless broadband service. Users would connect to the internet via their bathroom's plumbing system. Installation involved dropping a weighted fiber-optic cable down the toilet and then activating the "patented GFlush™ system" which would send the cable "surfing through the plumbing system to one of the thousands of TiSP Access Nodes." Google promised that it would provide a higher-performance version of the service for businesses which would include "24-hour, on-site technical support in the event of backup problems, brownouts and data wipes."
A news article, supposedly from a Scottish paper, circulated online, claiming that a crocodile had been sighted in Loch Ness:
"Several reports of a large unidentified creature seen wading along the Loch edge below the Lip'O'Flora viewpoint (the place where Flora MacDonald helped Rob Roy MacGregor escape the English redcoats) near the present day Clansman hotel have proven to be true. Much as some locals might wish it to be The Loch Ness Monster, it is believed to be a large Floridian crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). It is thought the reptile may be native to southern Florida and has simply drifted along the path of the Atlantic Gulf Stream before finding its new home in Scotland, or be yet another legacy from the British Pet Animals Act of 1951, which saw the release into the wild of many exotic animals by owners who did not have the facilities to be licensed as responsible 'pet' keepers or traders."
YouTube "rickrolled" its visitors. All the "featured video" links on its front page sent people to a video of 1980s pop singer Rick Astley singing his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up
. The video was posted under the user name YTRickRollsYou. Over 7 million people fell for the prank.
["Rickrolling" is a bait-and-switch-style prank that became popular on the internet in 2007. The prank is simple. A victim is tricked into clicking a link that takes them to a video of Rick Astley's song.]
Google unveiled Gmail Autopilot
, a feature that automatically reads and responds to your email, saving you the time of doing this. It boasted that Autopilot could mirror any communication style, could also work for Gmail chat, and would work even if both sender and recipient had Autopilot on:
"Two Gmail accounts can happily converse with each other for up to three messages each. Beyond that, our experiments have shown a significant decline in the quality ranking of Autopilot's responses and further messages may commit you to dinner parties or baby namings in which you have no interest."
The website "smellr.com" debuted, describing itself as "like Flickr, but for your nose":
"Your smell. Deeply personal yet very social, it says so much about you. And now there's a social network for your nose, a friendspace for your fragrance, a place to share your opinions on perfumes and vote for your favorite smells. We call it smellr and it's online now."
YouTube flipped its videos upside-down. The effect displayed for visitors who opened the home page and then went to a video from there. It was also possible to activate the effect by adding the code &flip=1
to the end of a youtube URL.
YouTube wrote that it had introduced the new format because, "Our internal tests have shown that modern computer monitors give a higher quality picture when flipped upside down—kind of like how it's best to rotate your mattress every six months." To see the new format, it advised viewers to either 1) Turn your monitor upside-down; 2) Tilt your head to the side; or 3) Move to Australia.
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."
Yahoo! unveiled an "ideological search engine" that filtered results to fit your personal political beliefs. Users could select between the Democratic and Republican ideology. Democratic results displayed in blue. Republican in red.
Online retailer thinkgeek.com unveiled Squeez Bacon
, 100% bacon paste that could be squeezed from a tube. It described it as "the world's most perfect food."
Squeez Bacon® is fully cooked 100% bacon. Due to the patented electro-mechanical process by which Squeez Bacon® is rendered, it requires no preservatives or other additives. Each serving is as healthy as real bacon, and equivalent to 4 premium slices of bacon!
Popular social news site Reddit
changed its layout to resemble that of its rival, Digg
. It also rebranded itself "Reddigg". It proclaimed: "At last, change has come to reddit. Let us rejoice."
Technology news website TechCrunch released a video detailing its new "DIY CrunchPad Kit" that allowed people to convert any laptop screen into a touchscreen device. The process involved removing the screen from the laptop, placing a (highly toxic) nanobot-driven "F.U.J.J." film over the screen, adding a new CPU, power unit, and 4G module, and finally "special radioactive shield casing." The price was only $49.99.
The Huffington Post announced it was introducing a paywall, requiring all employees of the New York Times
to purchase a digital subscription in order to view the content on its site. However, anyone who wasn't a New York Times
employee would continue to have full and free access. NYT employees would be greeted by the following message when they visited the site:
"Dear New York Times Employee, thank you for visiting The Huffington Post! We hope you've enjoyed your one free article this month. As you may know, we are now charging New York Times employees for unlimited access to our content. You can come back next moth for another free article or choose one of our NYT Employee Digital Subscription Plans ®. In our most popular plan, Times employees can view the first 6 letters of each word at no charge (including slideshows of adorable kittens). After 6 letters, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber."
The Huffington Post added, "of course, stories that aggregate falsehoods to support an administration's efforts to take the country into a disastrous, decade-long war based on lies will always remain free."
Google announced Google Nose Beta
— allowing people to smell what they searched for online. The company explained that they had leveraged "new and existing technologies to offer the sharpest olfactory experience available," with their "street sense vehicles" roaming far and wide to index millions of different scents, thereby creating the "Google Aromabase" of 15M+ "scentibytes."
The scents were smellable by people at their computers because Google had figured out how to manipulate the photons coming out of the screen, causing them to intersect with "infrasound waves," thereby temporarily aligning molecules to emulate particular scents.
warned that the federal government was planning to classify Capsaicin (the component of chili peppers that gives them their heat) as a controlled substance. Seeds of any chili pepper capable of producing 1 millions SHUs (Scoville Scale heat units) would become illegal. The government made this decision after noting that after eating extremely hot sauces, people frequently talked about feeling a "high" afterwards.