Past Google April Fools Pranks As It Cancels 2021's Over COVID

Google has said it will not be running any April Fools' Day jokes this year out of respect for those affected by the COVID pandemic.

It means this year is the second year in a row in which Google has not marked the occasion. An internal Google management email seen by Business Insider reads: "With much of the world still grappling with serious challenges, we feel we should again pause the jokes for April Fools' Day this year."

Google's April Fools' jokes tend to become short-lived internet hits, and they vary each year in terms of how elaborate they are. Below, Newsweek has compiled some of the tech giant's memorable April 1 pranks.

Google Nose, 2013

On April 1 2013, Google released a new "feature" on its homepage that it claimed would allow users to smell what they were searching for, as well as detect smells with their device.

The Google Nose Beta, "the new scentsation in search," made use of a vast bank of digital smells stored in Google's "Aromabase." It also included a SafeSearch option for when users might not want to smell their search query.

The company even released a YouTube video, which has 11.5 million views, in which software engineers provided an explanation for how the technology works. One said: "By intersecting photons with infrasound waves, Google Nose Beta temporarily aligns molecules to emulate a particular scent."

Gmail Mic Drop, 2016

In 2016, Google introduced an April Fools' prank called "Mic Drop" that ended up facing backlash.

Built into Gmail, the feature allowed users to send an email along with a GIF of a Minion from the Despicable Me film series dropping a microphone in a gesture typically used to conclude a statement.

The feature would work if users clicked a button that read "Send + Mic Drop" rather than the usual "Send."

However, users complained they had accidentally used the feature in important business emails when it was not appropriate, and a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch there was also a bug in which the GIF ended up being sent even if the user did not press the "Send + Mic Drop" button. The feature was quickly removed.

Where's Waldo on Google Maps, 2018

In 2018, Google hid Waldo, the classic children's book character, in various scenes in Google Maps.

Upon opening Maps, users were prompted to start the Where's Waldo game. From there, the game would take players through a number of locations, moving onto the next one each time Waldo was located. The game was available to play for a week.

That year also saw the addition of a "bad joke detector" to Google's Files Go app, which it said would use artificial intelligence to identify bad jokes that were sent to users by friends and family and offer to delete them.

Snake on Google Maps, 2019

Continuing the Google Maps theme, Google introduced a variation of the popular mobile game Snake to Maps in 2019, which is still available to play now on snake.googlemaps.com.

Meanwhile, Google's branch in the Netherlands introduced Google Tulip—technology it claimed would finally allow people to communicate with plants.

The Google Nederland team released a YouTube video, which now has 6.5 million views, of "plant engineers" demonstrating the software.

MentalPlex, 2000

At the start of the millennium, Google released its first April Fools' Day hoax that encouraged users to mentally project their search query to their computer using sheer force of will.

However, the search would always fail and the results page would explain why using a number of pre-set error messages.

These included: "Error: Insufficient conviction. Please clap hands 3 times, while chanting 'I believe' and try again."

"Error 01: Brainwaves received in analog. Please re-think in digital."

"Error CKR8: That information is protected under the National Security Act."

Man walks past google logo
A man walks past the logo of Google on May 24, 2018 in Paris. In normal times, the company introduces an April Fools' prank every year. Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty