There’s an old adage about running a company that is very simple, yet somehow frequently ignored: Don’t do an April Fools’ Day prank. So this year, like all others, myriad companies rushed into April 1 with a burst of cheer, only to have their day (or even month) ruined when their joke was not as funny as they thought it would be. Google even saw one of its pranks cause enough backlash that the company dropped it after only a handful of hours.
The Google Mic Drop feature that Gmail rolled out in the wee hours of April Fools’ Day may have seemed harmless enough. The popular email service simply added a button that let users insert an animated image of a Minion dropping the mic to the end of their messages. The problem was that the button looked a lot like the normal send button, and people instantly began adding Drop Mic Minions to serious emails. Apparently, some people still have real work to do, even if the Gmail team was looking forward to a day full of emails going viral thanks to their hilarious endnotes.
Even if the added feature is not “an incredible betrayal of trust,” it did piss some well-meaning people off. Anything new on the web is bound to experience some growing pains, so messing with what, for many, is the most important tool they use to communicate was definitely ill-advised. Of course, all is clearer in hindsight, but that won’t help get this guy a job.
The Gmail team quickly owned up to their prank going sour, and the gag was off the site by 6:00 a.m. EST. Google even apologized for the mess in a blog post.
“Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.”
Unsurprisingly, Google was not alone in screwing up its April Fools’ Day gags this year. One Singaporean online grocery store, Honestbee, thought it would be funny to open a new website a full week before April 1 that listed such exotic and endangered animals as pandas, tigers, and whales as for sale.
Well, now its Facebook page is permanently marred with outraged responses to the gag, even if the site quickly informed everyone the goal had been to draw attention to “the idea that these animals that are on the brink of extinction and yet readily available.”
While Honestbee may not be venturing back into the world of April Fools’ Day pranks anytime soon, Google is holding fast on a number of other gags. It’s hawking totally clear, plastic “real” reality glasses and introduced a new emoji search feature on Google Photos.
It’s pretty sad, though, that Google’s measurement of success for pranks is whether or not it gets people fired. Maybe next year, Gmail. Or, better yet, maybe not!