I'm not a big fan of April Fools' Day. Way back when, April 1 was the day when people pretended to break up with their significant others or jokingly confessed their love to a friend, only to be mortified when their feelings were unwittingly reciprocated. But Google's April Fools' Day jokes are fun, lighthearted, and actually pretty smart. Google's long history of poking fun at its millions of users is definitely why it has the title of No. 1 digital prankster.
Google set the bar in 2000 with MentalPlex, which asked users to project a mental image of their search item onto the site. People got error messages that ranged from "no signal detected" to directions for removing hats, glasses, and shoes. In 2007, Google announced Gmail Paper, a free email archiving service that would mail hard copies of your messages to your home. If you saw people maniacally waving their arms at their computers in 2011, that's probably because Gmail Motion told users to make body gestures to send and receive their email.
For April Fools' 2015, Google didn't disappoint. But this year definitely has more of a throwback theme, one that feels more nostalgic than silly. From honoring a classic arcade game to hollering at the dial-up we loved to hate, Google shows why it's still the king of online fun.
Step into the mirror, and change your perspective. Google is flipping its most popular product around with the release of com.Google a.k.a. the Bizarro version of Google.com. The reverse search engine gives you the exact same results as you would normally find — except everything is written backwards. While it's fun to play with, com.Google doesn't spread to Google Plus or its other apps, and when you click on a search item, things turn back to normal. By the way, turns out you can't get lucky backwards.
Google Maps Pac-Man
Pac-Man is awesome, and Google is giving a major shout-out the classic arcade game with a very cool Pac-Man edition on Google Maps. Type in an address into Google Maps, and click the Pac-Man button near the bottom of the window. Your map will transform into the familiar black and blue layout, and you'll be hooked. Watch the little yellow guy chomp on dots and avoid ghosts around your favorite cities. Are you a beginner? Try Los Angeles. Experts, head on over to Tokyo. Go on, go bring some joy to your life.
Smartbox By Inbox
Don't you wish your mailbox could keep the junk out of your snail mail just as your spam filter keeps those misguided penile enhancement offers out of your email? Well, Gmail's new faux-product Smartbox does just that and more. The "mailbox of tomorrow, today" will organize your envelopes by category, weed out bad messages, and send a phone notification when, well, you've got mail. If you're on the go, you can literally take your mailbox with you. Instead of having a mailbox that "just sits there," you can (sort of, not really) have a Smartbox.
Google Fiber Dial-Up
The sound of a 56K modem is something that never quite leaves you. Google Fiber is bringing it back with a new dial-up mode that lets you deliberately slow down your Internet connection. If you're video-conferencing your boss and don't have the right answer, turn on dial-up mode to make your face pixelated and audio weak. You can blame it on the connection. When you're waiting minutes for your photo to download, you can finally have time to hug your kids and have a conversation. According to Google, 56K is the kind of tech that brings families together.
Google Japan's Keyless Keyboard
For those people who are less technically proficient, Google Japan has the solution for you. Described as a "device filled with dreams," the Google Japanese Input Piro-Piro lets you insert words without typing on a keyboard. Simply blow on the modified party horn, and depending on how far it extends, the device will translate letters into your phone via Bluetooth. The keyless keyboard is especially useful when your hands are full, a must-have tool for clay potters apparently.