The merry pranksters are out in earnest for April 1, with some of the more silly jokes whipped up by or on behalf of Google, poking at the search vendor's Big Brother aura.
In the United States, Google crafted a press release and blog post detailing Virgle, a fictitious joint venture between Google and intrepid adventurer and Virgin tycoon Richard Branson to colonize Mars.
The first manned journey to Mars will be in 2016 (so soon?); the founding of Virgle City is set for 2050; and the first Martian civilization with a population exceeding 100,000 will be realized by 2108, or not in our lifetime.
The hoax goes way overboard here, with a YouTube video from Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, a questionnaire to test the physical and mental fitness of those who want to go to Mars, a mission control page and a 100-year plan.
Sigh. I know, I know.
At first blush, this is ridiculous, but it's quite clever when you think about it. Google, through its space contests and wireless radio balloons, has created an aura of "we'll try anything to expand our Web footprint," an aura shamelessly perpetuated by media and bloggers the world over.
Virgle is a devilishly delightful, self-deprecating way of making fun of the whole Google is Big Brother/philanthropist stereotype. That said, Page, Brin and Branson are space geeks, so don't think they wouldn't jump at the chance to set up shop on Mars.
Meanwhile, Google's Aussie counterparts also revved up the jest machine with gDay search technology, which with some kind of crazy space-time continuum technology conspicuously called MATE (Gday MATE, for those slow on the uptake), lets users search the Web 24 hours in advance.
I actually like this better than the Mars April Fool. The tool would be far more useful to journalists who always want news scoops, like, yesterday.
Google is also playing more clandestine jokes on folks that involve time-bending. Have you checked your Gmail account today? Google is running a beta of Custom Time, meaning you can "go back in time [insert Back to The Future theme song here] and send that crucial e-mail that could have changed everything."
Finally, all of the featured videos on Google's YouTube site play Rick Astley's ghastly "Never Gonna Give You Up." Viva la RicRoll! Wouldn't it be nice to go back in time and 86 this '80s pan flash?
Not to be outdone, journos and bloggers are getting in on the April Fool's action. High marks go to InfoWorld, which has clearly spent a lot of time on a package to mark the pseudo-holiday. Google is acquiring Facebook for $25 billion in this post, and the U.S. government in this one for a mere $4 billion.
The idea behind both is delicious. By getting Facebook, Google is taking out a competitor; by getting the government, Google can remove any stumbling blocks to said acquisition, plus any others in years to come, not to mention controlling the primary venue where consumers and organizations lodge privacy complaints. Big Brother indeed.
High marks for Michel Gondryesque creativity also go to ReadWriteWeb's Emre Sokullu, who has concocted a Google stealth project called DreamAds, which as you've probably already guessed is a move to extend AdSense into our dreams.
Using magnetic resonance scanning and mind-reading techniques developed at Stanford University, Google wants to be the "first company to monetize a totally wasted period of time in human life: sleep, which takes up almost 1/3 of our lives."
Just love it.
From Google's own self-deprecating hoaxes to the faux-acquisition stories and DreamAds, the Google is Big Brother theme is consistent.