Google's five funniest April Fools' jokes

Google's famous for its April Fools' jokes, from today's Topeka gag to the PigeonRank prank of yesteryear

Google logo

Google logo

The Internet has made April Fools' infinitely more amusing -- and if there's one company that loves to get in on the hijinks, it's Google.

Google's April Fools' Day jokes have become the stuff of legend. Sometimes the gags are good enough to trick you; other times, they're just good for a chuckle.

Here are five of my personal favorites.

1. Google April Fools' Joke: The Topeka Name Change

This first one may have only happened today, but it's far too brilliant to leave off the list. Bright and early this April Fools' morning, Google announced it was changing its name... to Topeka.

The gag comes one month after the real Topeka decided to temporarily change its name to Google. Topeka's mayor signed a proclamation to help convince Google his city was the best place for its soon-to-be-launched broadband network.

Today, Google fired back, replacing its standard home page logo with the word "Topeka." A photo showed the Google headquarters with a freshly updated sign. And a placard was even provided to help you learn the proper way to use the new name in conversation.

If you missed it, not to worry -- I'm sure you can still find everything with a quick Topeka search.

2. Google April Fools' Joke: TiSP

Google's broadband initiative may be the real deal, but back in 2007, the G-team joked that it was launching a wireless broadband service that'd run through the sewers.

TiSP -- short for Toilet Internet Service Provider -- was described as a "self-installed, ad-supported online service that will be offered entirely free to any consumer with a Wi-Fi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system." To use the service, all you had to do was flush a fiber-optic cable down the john and connect the other end to a specially provided router.

And here you thought your ISP was crappy.

3. Google April Fools' Joke: Gmail Paper

Another '07 winner, Gmail Paper pretended to provide a new option for paper-based backups of Gmail-stored messages. With one quick click, you could request a physical copy of any e-mail and have it delivered to your door. Or so it seemed.

"The cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica," the spoof site explained. "No pop-ups, no flashy animations -- these are physically impossible in the paper medium."

Try telling that to my origami instructor.

4. Google April Fools' Joke: Pigeon Rank

Forget PageRank: On April Fools' 2002, Google came clean and said the real secret to its search technology was something called PigeonRank. Yes, PigeonRank.

The system, according to a page published at the time, was built by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin during their time at Stanford.

"Page and Brin reasoned that low cost pigeon clusters (PCs) could be used to compute the relative value of Web pages faster than human editors or machine-based algorithms," the page said. "And while Google has dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of our service on a daily basis, PigeonRank continues to provide the basis for all of our Web search tools."

Just imagine all those tiny beaks pecking away with your every search. Man, I'd hate to get on those pigeons' bad side.

5. Google April Fools' Joke: MentalPlex

One of Google's earliest April Fools' pranks, MentalPlex was presented in the year 2000 as a cutting-edge new way to search by brainwave. Just stare into a swirling circle, project a mental image of what you want to find, and MentalPlex would do the work.

"MentalPlex is the only search engine that accurately returns results without requiring you enter a query," a FAQ created specially for the joke explained. "Google's CEO and co-founder Larry Page calls MentalPlex 'a quantum leap in finding what you are looking for on the Internet. Typing in queries is so 1999.'"

Sounds kinda like that creepy gAmygdala thing I keep hearing about.

Other Google April Fools' Gags

Google's pulled off plenty of other April Fools' gags, ranging from its fictitious Google Romance project to its nearly believable Gmail Custom Time feature. Then there are the gags pretending to be Google gags, like today's "Just Kidding About That Whole China Thing" story. (I still say that one's pretty darn convincing.)

Just remember: When the calendar says April 1, be very wary of what you read.

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)

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