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Google April Fools' Day Pranks 2012: 8-Bit Maps, Chrome Multitask Mode & More!

Danny Goodwin
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For Google, April Fools' Day is the annual launch day for a slew of gag products and hoax services you’ll likely never see in real life. Google’s practical jokes began a day early in 2012, with 8-Bit Google Maps, Chrome Multitask Mode making their debut, then continued early this morning with the YouTube Collection, Google Racing, Click-to-Teleport search ads, and much more.

Here’s a recap of all the April Fools’ Day fun from this year.

Google 8-Bit Maps for NES

Like Google Maps? Still have your dusty old Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the back of your closet or up in your attic? Then you’re in luck.

Google is finally adding support for the classic video game system with the launch of 8-bit maps, touting “low-res graphics, simple and intuitive controls, and a timeless soundtrack.” You can explore the world and find landmarks, including:

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The White House and Washington Monument

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Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

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The Statue of Liberty in New York City

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Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee

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St. Louis Arch in Missouri

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Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California

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The Googleplex in Mountain View, California

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Alcatraz Island

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Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

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Area 51

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Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Nelson's Column in London, England

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Loch Ness Monster, current exact location unknown (but try searching Google Maps for the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, United Kingdom, then scroll east)

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Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

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Louvre Museum in Paris, France

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Taj Mahal in Agra, India

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Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

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Roman Colosseum

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Sphinx & Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt

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Chichen Itza, Mexico

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Easter Island

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Parthenon in Athens, Greece

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Kremlin in Moscow, Russia

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Great Buddha of Kamakura, Japan

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Nazca Lines in Nasca, Peru

(Seen any other cool 8-bit Google Maps landmarks? Leave a note in the comments!)

This video offers a full walk-through and preview. The “trial version” is available at Google Maps in Quest Mode:

Chrome Multitask Mode

Cursing because you only have one cursor? Say hello to the ambinavigation revolution known as Chrome Multitask Mode.

Thanks to Google’s unending need for speed, you can surf the web with both hands by using more than one mouse on the same computer. Or, surf with your friends or loved ones at the same time.

Here’s where you can try out Multitask Mode. Here’s a video explaining it:

All of YouTube Put on a DVD

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YouTube joined in with an April Fools’ Day hoax of its own. In a post on the YouTube Blog, Chet Flanagan, director of DVD product management, asked, “Loved a video so much that liking it, favoriting it, sharing it and even subscribing to the channel wasn’t enough? Just had to hold it in your grasp and never ever let it go?” He added, “We know the feeling, so today we’re making The YouTube Collection available for you in a new holdable version: DVD. A direct result of your feedback and demand, The YouTube Collection is a first of its kind offering in web video.”

Here's a video outlining the details.

Google Racing: Self-Driving NASCAR Race Cars

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For those who enjoy spending Sunday afternoons watching cars speed around a track at 200 miles per hour but don’t like all that crashing, now there’s a Google racing team. Partnering with NASCAR, one car from Google’s fleet of autonomous vehicles will duel against carbon-based life forms.

“I hope that today’s announcement of Google Racing will mark another step along this path, and spur innovations that improve the daily lives of people all over the world,” wrote Google co-founder Sergey Brin. “Or at the very least offer us a few cool new thrills on hot weekend afternoons.”

Note that the car number is 10^100 (known as a googol in mathematics – the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes) and the car slogan is “I’m steering lucky”, a play on Google’s long-time “I’m feeling lucky” search option that brings searchers to the No. 1 result rather than showing an entire search engine results page.

Gmail Tap

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Google has revealed its futuristic binary language made up of dots and dashes for Android and iOS users on the go: Gmail Tap, which reduces 26 keys to 2.

Gmail also introduced multi-email, allowing power users to double their productivity by typing multiple emails at once, predictive text mode, and optional audio feedback.

Google Street Roo View

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To provide panoramic pictures of the Australian outback, Google has announced Google Street Roo. The search giant plans to equip more than 1,000 kangaroos with 360-degree cameras powered by solar panels stitched into custom-made “roo jackets” to capture images as they hop around during daylight hours. The goal is to capture images of 98 percent of the area within three years.

We’re all holding our breath to find out whether any kangaroos will file privacy complaints with the Australian government.

Click-to-Teleport

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Phone calls and website visits are so old-fashioned. Now when people click on a search ad, Google will teleport through time and space – directly to a business location.

For advertisers, Google says you should:

  • Optimize for closest location: Least disorienting for visitors, and helps you maintain a local feeling.
  • Optimize for conversions: Teleports visitors to locations where your customers are most likely to convert.
  • Rotate evenly: Teleports visitor to a random business location and helpful for avoiding overcrowded business locations.

Good news for advertisers: offline sales have increased by a whopping 3,600 percent. Bad news for users and businesses: while Click-to-Teleport is in beta, there is no “teleport back home” option.

Google Really Advanced Search

Sometimes Advanced Search isn’t enough. Now if you need to search with new options, Google Really Advanced Search has you covered for the following:

  • Rhyming slang for
  • This exact word or phrase, whose sum of unicode code points is a mersenne prime
  • Font
  • Content that is true
  • Will have been modified
  • Embarrassing grammatical faux pas
  • Looping midi music in the genre of

Not enough? You can also “tickle a unicorn”; “download our ranking code so you can run Google at home”; and “search by odor”.

Fittingly, clicking on any of those, or the blue Advanced Search button will take you to the search results page for “april fools”.

Control the Weather!

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Says Google: “Don’t like the weather? Now you can change it in your region by selecting from the dropdown to change precipitation and setting your own temperature.”

Choose the temperature along with whatever weather conditions (e.g., sunny, foggy, windy, rain, thunderstorm). Then click the “Update weather” button. Google explains that it will take 45 minutes to update and you must agree to be responsible for the weather (if you’re too afraid, you can click “Dismiss”)!

Google Fiber: It's Fiberlicious!

The company introduced Google Fiber. No, it’s not a fiber optic network. Google Fiber starts with 100 times more fiber than any source of fiber available today.

Tested in labs across Google’s Mountain View campus, the company found that in just the right synthesis, psyllium and vitamins C and D morph into a byproduct that Google has coded as “Fiberlicious.” This smarter fiber delivers just what the body needs to sustain activity, energy and productivity up to 100 times more than you have experienced before.

Google Voice for Pets

Next, the company introduced Google Voice for Pets! Now, you might ask yourself, “Google Voice … for my pets? How is that even possible? There’s only a few bluetooth headsets that can fit my dog, and they’re so expensive!”

The secret is in Google’s special Voice Communication Collars. The collars fit around your pet’s neck and use a series of sensors to record audio directly from your dog or cat’s vocal cords, using technology originally developed for NASA spacesuits.

Jargot-bot for Google Apps

The company also introduced Jargon-bot for Google Apps. Have you seen the National Car Rental commercial that talks about improving ROI through SEO by COB? Well, Jargon-Bot will automatically detect business jargon or business speak and provide you with real-time translation in plain English. (Actually, it’s more American than English. But, it’s definitely not Australian, Canadian, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh.)

Go Ro

Finally, Google introduced Go Ro. Now, you know that millions of people are using mobile devices every day, but did you know that dozens are still using rotary phones? And did you know that 100 percent of people using rotary phones have trouble accessing your website? Well, if you’re ready to prepare for the return of rotary, then you know it’s time to Go Ro!

Google Analytics: Interplanetary Reporting

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Find Google Analytics too limited because it only tracks human visits from Earth? Well, Well, starting in 2030, Google will solve another problem with their latest analytics innovation: Interplanetary Reporting

Whether it's Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, or even the moon, Google Analytics will let you drill down into all sorts of data on your human and non-human traffic, including page load time and the correlation between gravity and bounce rates.

Google Offers: $1 Buy Good Parking Karma

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For the low, low price of $1, some lucky participants scooped up the latest deal from Google Offers: a lifelong boost of good parking karma. After redeeming with the parking gods, you'll no longer have to worry about runaway shopping carts, tow away zones, parking tickets, or even parallel parking – all thanks to the new prime spots that will become available to you.

Google TV Click: Control Television & Movies!

With Google TV Click, it's all about you. This innovative remote control app is powered by Common Gateway Interface technology and Motion Beaming. Google TV Click will let you control the actors and locations of any and every television show or movie you're watching, whether its "Star Wars" (blast Jar Jar Binks to a galaxy far, far away!), "300" (Spartans get helicopter support!), "The Matrix" (Neo takes the blue pill!) or "The Walking Dead" (Shane is alive!).

Important note: this will only be available for download from the Google Play Store on April 31, 2012, so don't miss out.

Google's Canine Staffing Team

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Is your dog looking for a job with Google? Can he or she stay, fetch, roll over, shake hands, and not drool on the application? Then your dog just might become a Doogler.

Google is looking to add a few good Bloodhounds to its canine search team and some Rottweilers in corporate security. Applicants must be friendly, energetic and playful, as well as demonstrate "great teamwork within a business kennel environment," according to Taylor Marquardt, Canine Staffing Team. P.S.: biters need not apply!

Search Options: Past Eras, Once Upon a Time, Tomorrow

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Not seeing this one myself, but SEW readers and others including Google Operating System (where the screenshot above was taken from) report that you can search for pages from past eras, such as "Jurassic Era," "Victorian Era," "the Gilded Age," "Enlightenment," "New Kindgom Era," "Once Upon a Time", "Past 5.391e-44seconds," and "Tomorrow." Clicking on these takes users to a special joke search.

Google Underwater Image Search

This is a unique one. Via this page, you'll see Google's logo and search box in Chinese floating on the surface of water above some sharks and nasty looking fish.

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Type in a search such as [shark], and then a few pictures of sharks will drop down into the water and send the search box to the bottom, leaving the Google logo floating by itself.

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Google April Fools’ Day Hoaxes History: 2000-2011

In 2000, Google asked users to “project a mental image of what you want to find” while staring at the MentalPlex circle. When we clicked (or visualized clicking) within the MentalPlex circle, we got an error message that said, “Error 01: Brainwaves received in analog. Please re-think in digital.”

In 2002, Google revealed the technology behind its great results – PigeonRank – which used low cost pigeon clusters (PCs) to compute the relative value of web pages. Google explained, “Those pages receiving the most pecks are returned at the top of the user’s results page with the other results displayed in pecking order.”

In 2004, the Google Copernicus Center announced it was interviewing candidates for engineering positions at a lunar hosting and research center, which was opening late in the spring of 2007.

In 2005, the company announced Google Gulp (BETA) with Auto-Drink (LIMITED RELEASE), a line of “smart drinks” designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

In 2006, the company announced Google Romance, a place where you can post all types of romantic information and, using Google’s Soulmate Search, get back search results that could, in theory, include the love of your life.

In 2007, the company announced the launch of Google TiSP (BETA) . The Toilet Internet Service Provider (TiSP) project was a self-installed, ad-supported online service that was offered entirely free to any consumer with a WiFi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system.

In 2008, Google announced Project Virgle, a joint project with the Virgin Group to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. The announcement included videos on projectvirgle’s channel on YouTube.

Also that year, YouTube participated in Google’s April Fools’ Day tradition for the first time. All featured videos on YouTube’s linked to “Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up,” causing all users of the website who clicked on featured videos to be Rickrolled.

In 2009, Google announced CADIE, the world’s first Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity. She immediately assumed control of the company and its products and services.

That year, YouTube gave some users a look at a new “viewing experience” when they selected a video within the “recommended for you” section. This new interface caused the whole layout including the video you were watching to flip upside down.

In 2010, Google announced it was changing its name to Topeka, after that city changed its name to Google the previous month.

At the same time, YouTube unveiled a new quality setting, TEXTp. According to a notice underneath videos, viewing a video with this quality setting enabled allowed YouTube to save one US dollar ($1) per second on bandwidth costs.

In 2011, Google rolled out Comic Sans as its default font across all Google products (one of many pranks). YouTube celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. In honor of this milestone, the video site’s homepage was a reproduction of how users might have viewed it in 1911. It also featured the “Top 5 Viral Pictures of 1911.”

Search Engine Watch also learned about the Bamboo Update, to restore websites rankings from Google's Panda update.

Greg Jarboe also contributed to this post.


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