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.
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.
Online retailer ThinkGeek.com debuted a Desktop Zero-Point Infinite Power Generator
, at a price of only $199.99, although the item was permanently "On Backorder".
"At the quantum level, all matter in the universe vibrates constantly - even at absolute zero! The Desktop Zero-Point Power Generator takes advantage of this seething abundant energy by converting naturally occurring EM energy into 120 Volts / 200 Amps of electricity.
The generator is 8 inches square, and weighs just under 3 pounds. When activated, the generator will generate power indefinitely! The unit emits a very quiet whirr, and less than 600 rem of residual ionizing radiation! ThinkGeek recommends you drain the unit's non-volitile waste chamber once every three months, and dispose of the tritium/deuterium slurry at a licensed disposal facility.
Sorry, not available in 220V."
A ThinkGeek spokesman later told Wired magazine
that long after posting the generator for sale, they continued to receive numerous requests to purchase it: "We've had people e-mailing us from all over the world telling us they were very interested in it."
Google revealed the secret at the heart of its search technology: PigeonRank
. Clusters of pigeons had been trained to compute the relative values of web pages:
PigeonRank's success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation… By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings. When a search query is submitted to Google, it is routed to a data coop where monitors flash result pages at blazing speeds. When a relevant result is observed by one of the pigeons in the cluster, it strikes a rubber-coated steel bar with its beak, which assigns the page a PigeonRank value of one. For each peck, the PigeonRank increases.
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.
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.
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)."
was posted on Slashdot urging individuals to stand outside and waveso that their picture could be taken by the new Google satellite passing overhead:
"Google's recent purchase of Keyhole and its jaw-dropping 3D earth-browsing software has apparently netted them ownership of an imaging satellite as well, now named 'gSat.' This Friday, April 1st, gSat will be capturing a new dataset (neighborhood of 1meter/pixel), passing over each time zone between 10 and 11AM. If you stand outside and wave you will supposedly show up as a blurry fleck."
it was being taken over by Encyclopædia Britannica, in exchange for a £133.7 million severance package given to each of the five trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.
One of the first changes was that Wikipedia would henceforward be spelled Wikipædia. In addition, users would be charged £99.97 to create or edit a page.
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.
detailed the work of Dr. Ewe Noh-Watt of the New Zealand Institute of Veterinary Climatology, who had discovered that global warming was caused not by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rather by the decline of New Zealand's sheep population. The reasoning was that sheep are white, and therefore large numbers of sheep increased the planet's albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back into space). As the sheep population declined, the ground absorbed more solar radiation, thus warming the planet: "It can be seen that the recent warming can be explained entirely by the decline in the New Zealand sheep population, without any need to bring in any mysterious so-called 'radiative forcing' from carbon dioxide, which doesn't affect the sunlight (hardly) anyway — unlike Sheep Albedo."
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."
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 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."
ThinkGeek described an unusual new Nintendo Wii game — Super Pii Pii Brothers
, an "Amazing Virtual Pee Experience from Japan."
"Prepare yourself by strapping on the included belt harness and jacking in your Wiimote. A series of toilets are presented on screen and the challenge is to tilt your body to control a never-ending stream of pee. Get as much pee in the toilets as you can while spilling as little on the floor as possible."
List Universe posted a list of the Top 10 Bizarre Genetically Modified Organisms
, which included the "paper tree."
This tree had been developed "to reduce production costs and loss of tree life in the paper manufacturing industry." A Swiss-based company had developed the tree which grew square leaves that, when dried, were already usable as writing paper.
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.
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.
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."
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.
CNet reported on
Tableau, a new London restaurant using iPad 2 tablets as plates:
It was deeply moving to see a delicious steak served on a stunning slice of tablet technology. Info about calories and nutrients was displayed around our pasta, and it even warned us to beware of our piping-hot food.
There are downsides to iPad 2-based dishes, however. The device doesn't have a rim, which means it doesn't do a good job of holding sauces and other runny items. According to other diners, the all-day breakfast was "a nightmare" due to the fried egg and beans running rampant over the table.
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 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.
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.
YouTube revealed that it was actually a massive competition — a competition that would end at midnight with the closing of the site, allowing the judges to spend the next ten years reviewing every video uploaded and declare a winner.
"Tonight at midnight YouTube.com will no longer be accepting entries. After eight amazing years it is finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner. We started youtube in 2005 as a contest with the simple goal to find the best video in the world. We had no idea we'd get such a great response. You've uploaded over 70 hours of footage every minute and we've been blown away by the variety, imagination, and anything-goes spirit that's driven the competition."
they were shifting to a two-tiered service. Users of the basic service, "Twttr", would only be able to use consonants in their messages. While those who upgraded to the premium "Twitter" service for $5 a month would also be able to use vowels.
The company posted an example, showing how Barack Obama's famous post-election-victory tweet — "Four more years" — would have appeared with the new Twttr service.
HerCampus, a news site for women in college, posted an announcement that Beyoncé was looking for interns to help organize the "official Beyoncé archive." She wasn't offering any financial compensation, but she did promise "the opportunity to take three selfies with Beyoncé over the course of the internship."
The announcement seemed believable enough that several media outlets picked up on the story and reported it as news. It also circulated widely on social media.