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.
In an article in PC Computing
magazine, John Dvorak described a bill (# 040194) going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The FBI was planning to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?"
Dvorak offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194, which is designed to prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information Highway) while the computer user is intoxicated. I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is."
The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill. The giveaway was the number of the bill: 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94). Also, the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards).
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.
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.
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.
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."
Searchguild, a search-engine optimization company, debuted Undergoos.com, a Google parody. The Undergoos site claimed to allow internet users to search for and organize underwear. It had the motto: "Underwear by Google - Supporting 8,058,044,651 bosoms."
"Just like our original motto 'Just search,' everything we do at UnderGoos is 'Just pants' (yes, we know that's not strictly true but it's an ethos thing). All of our underwear was carefully selected using PageRank(TM) (a uniquely democratic measure of how attractive Larry finds the model wearing them)."
Adrian Farrel, a Routing Area Director in the Internet Engineering Task Force, authored an RFC (RFC 4041
) arguing that morality should be considered in the design of internet protocols:
"It is well accepted by popular opinion and other reliable metrics that moral values are declining and that degeneracy is increasing. Young people are particularly at risk from the rising depravity in society and much of the blame can be squarely placed at the door of the Internet... When new protocols or protocol extensions are developed within the Routing Area, it is often the case that not enough consideration is given to the impact of the protocol on the moral fiber of the Internet... this document defines requirements for the inclusion of Morality Considerations sections in all Internet-Drafts produced within the Routing Area. Meeting these requirements will ensure that proper consideration is given to moral issues at all stages of the protocol development process, from Requirements and Architecture, through Specification and Applicability."
The Norwegian company Opera Software (maker of the Opera web browser) issued a press release announcing it had developed new "P2P speech technology" that used "analogue signals carried through open air, enabling users to communicate in real-time without the use of computers or mobile phones." It called this invention "SoundWave technology."
It elaborated: "The new SoundWave technology was accidently discovered during an R&D study to speech-enable Opera's e-mail client. One of Opera's desktop developers needed to find an alternative way to relay a message to his colleague at a time when the e-mail server was down, and was startled to notice that his verbal outcry was intercepted and understood immediately."
The BBC reprised its 1965 "smellovision"
April Fool hoax by inviting visitors to its website to test new "sniff-screen technology" by clicking on various colored squares, pressing their noses and thumbs against their screen, and inhaling to identify the smell.
Google Australia debuted gDay technology
"enabling you to search content on the internet before it is created":
"The core technology that powers gDay™ is MATE™ (Machine Automated Temporal Extrapolation). Using MATE's™ machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques developed in Google's Sydney offices, we can construct elements of the future. Google spiders crawl publicly available web information and our index of historic, cached web content. Using a mashup of numerous factors such as recurrence plots, fuzzy measure analysis, online betting odds and the weather forecast from the iGoogle weather gadget, we can create a sophisticated model of what the internet will look like 24 hours from now."
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."
Australia's Courier Mail reported that the roll-out of digital radio in Queensland had the unintended side effect of making high-speed internet access freely available through old radio receivers. The paper interviewed the University of Queensland's head of frequency physics Prof Sayd al Lio who said, "the technicians had tapped into something that had eluded researchers for decades." To access the free internet, readers were instructed to place a radio on a surface outdoors in a direct line towards the Mt. Coot-tha radio towers:
"Tune in to any AM station with a moderate volume, not so loud it annoys the neighbours. Place your laptop behind the radio receiver, again in a direct line with the towers, and open your favourite internet browser. Experts say that today, April 1, otherwise known as April Fool's Day, should produce the strongest signal."
The Japan Times
profiled a new social-networking service called TomoToday that would provide people with instant virtual friends, recruited from the ranks of unemployed temp workers. The service complemented sites such as Facebook by providing "a short cut to a substantial social-media presence."
"TomoToday subscribers will be able to choose from strategically selected sets of virtual friends, dubbed 'InstaNakama,' tailor-made to nurture the user's desired online identity. Say you're a shy young man, in need of pointers and ice-breaking intros. The Wingumen are at your service... Other readymade TomoToday circles include: Jetto Setto (multilingual friends from all over the globe); OB-Gun (long-lost school chums); Power Ranchers (for the corporate networks); and Geek Gumi (for socially challenged otaku)."
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.
Google Australia announced it had partnered with the Australian rules football league to develop the gBall
This was a rugby ball with "inbuilt GPS and motion sensor systems to monitor the location, force and torque of each kick." Google could then provide users with "detailed online kicking tips, style suggestions and tutorials based on their gBall kicking data." As an added bonus, "Kicking data is also sent to national talent scouts and player agents. The gBall will vibrate if talent scouts or player agents want to make contact with the user."
The Guardian announced
it would become "the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter," thus rendering its printing presses obsolete. It also revealed an ongoing project to rewrite its entire news archive in the form of "tweets" (Twitter's text messages limited to 140 characters each). Examples included:
- "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"
- "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see tinyurl.com/b5x6e for more"
- "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"
Virgin Media revealed (via an article in The Telegraph
) that it was using "specially trained ferrets" to help lay cables to expand broadband service to rural areas.
The ferrets wore jackets fitted with a microchip that was able to analyze any breaks or damage in the underground network.
Jon James, director of broadband for Virgin Media, remarked: "For hundreds of years, ferrets have helped humans in various jobs. Our decision to use them is due to their strong nesting instinct, their long, lean build and inquisitive nature, and for their ability to get down holes. We initially kept the trial low-key as we wanted to assess how well the ferrets fitted into our operations before revealing this enterprising scheme."
Melissa Block reported for NPR's All Things Considered
about the "slow internet movement"
which was rapidly growing in popularity in "hipster enclaves" such as Portland, Oregon and Ottumwa, Iowa. Devotees of this movement preferred to browse the internet at slow speeds, and so they purposefully chose dial-up connections over faster broadband ones.
Dr. Uri Langsam noted that slow internet could have physiological benefits since studies revealed that as the connection speed slowed down the alpha waves of the user became similar to someone who was meditating: "The thinking improves. The complexion improves. It's just amazing what it will do."
Google debuted Gmail Motion
, designed to allow people to write emails using only gestures, which Gmail would track using your computer webcam and a "spatial tracking algorithm." Command gestures included: open
a message by making a motion with your hands as if you're opening an envelope, reply
by pointing backward over your shoulder with your thumb, and reply all
by pointing backward with both thumbs.
Gmail introduced "Gmail Tap". This app replaced the QWERTY keyboard on mobile phones with two keys, a dot and a dash, allowing users to communicate using morse code. This not only simplified the act of typing on a phone, but also allowed it to be done without looking at the screen, making it "ideal for situations where you need to discreetly send emails, such as when you're on a date or in a meeting with your boss."
Recognizing the continuing popularity of retro gaming systems, Google Maps announced
that it would soon be offering a version of Google Maps for the Nintendo Entertainment System, featuring low-res, 8-bit maps and "a timeless soundtrack". It would be the first time an NES cartridge had been sold in 18 years. Though until the cartridges were available in stores, the public was invited to experience a trial version of the 8-bit maps online.
In case of technical difficulties, users were directed to "blow on the cartridge to fix bugs."
Internet phone company Skype announced it was releasing an experimental version of its service that didn't require a direct internet connection, or even a computer or mobile device. It was called "Skype for String." All that was required was "two cups and a piece of string with a minimum bandwidth of 5mm." Any cup and string would work, but for best results a "Skype certified set" was suggested.
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.