Phew. It’s finally April 2, and we can stop being so automatically distrustful of any suspiciously timed new products launched by the companies inhabiting the tech sphere. This year’s crop of April Fools jokes included everything from the International Space Station to Twitter’s latest means of generating revenue to Nokia’s attempt to, um, enter the home appliance market.
If you go all the way back to co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet back in 2006, you’ll notice he referred to his fledgling service as “twttr”. Twitter capitalised on this name on April 1 to announce the launch of its new tiered offering. After explaining that they were looking for new ways to generate revenue and make posting more efficient, the team said they would be essentially charging people to tweet using vowels. If you wanted to continue to tweet for free, you’d have to rely on just consonants.
— JARED LETO (@JaredLeto) April 1, 2013
In addition, advertisers would be given the option to pay for an extra character, giving them an amazing 141 characters to play with in their sponsored tweets. Twitter encouraged users to try twttrng and share their thoughts using the hashtag #nvwls, which caused a delightful feed of SMS-speak gibberish to stream in from around the world.
Google’s not lazy when it comes to April Fools. It rolled out a number of jokes — some even started a day early. On March 31, YouTube announced that the competition was over and it was shutting down for the judging process. Huh? Yep, apparently the whole creation of YouTube was actually one giant quest to find the best video on the internet and submissions have now closed. After around 10 years of deliberation between the judges, it will be re-opened in 2023 with just one video — the winning one.
Some of Google’s other jokes included Gmail blue (a blue version of Gmail that apparently took years to build), a treasure map mode for Google Maps and a new product called Google Nose, which allows users to search for smells and sniff them through their screen.
Google Analytics users also may have noticed increased export and send options for legacy technology (like sticky notes, floppy disks and carrier pigeons) and a few visits from the control room of the International Space Station.
Skype into space
As part of its mission to keep the universe talking, Skype announced a new product designed to facilitate Skype calls when travelling past black holes. It features automatic video rotation for zero gravity situations, additional language support for alien dialects and extreme gravitational resilience. There are some minimum requirements though — including a rocket capable of leaving Earth’s atmosphere and a launch-pad big enough to avoid damaging the geraniums on engine ignition. Oh, and it may take “several millennia for your message to reach its location”. But I’m sure they’re working on that.
No, they’re not entering the tablet game — but Nokia is diversifying. The company announced its first microwave oven — the 5AM-TH1N6 — which looks like a giant Lumia box and features a touch screen and eye-tracking technology (not the Samsung kind) which “stops the food from rotating when you look at it.” It’s also planning to launch a mini version aimed at people with smaller appetites and a 10-inch variant for “no one in particular”. It also takes photos of your food to share with your social networks (but no, it doesn’t come with Instagram).
Yesterday, Reddit announced its acquisition of online multiplayer Team Fortress 2 and its plans to incorporate game elements like weapons and hats into accounts and give users the (temporary) ability to fight each other to earn points for their team. It even created dedicated sub reddits to allow users to discuss battle strategies. Speaking about the changes, which had its users going crazy in equal doses of confusion and joy, CEO Yishan Wong said “Okay, but will it make us more money?”.
Fair enough. But according to the team over at Valve, they actually acquired Reddit, by distracting the team with awkward eye contact during the negotiations and switching out the legal documents. Sneaky.
Samsung’s already into everything from washing machines to TVs, cameras and phones, but it seems to be investigating a new product category: eco trees. According to an official blog post, its SMART eco trees will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen… err, just like normal trees. All you need is water and S(olar) Beams to generate S buds that release fragrance and fuel the SMART cooling tech. You can even share your tree with your friends using S-eeds. It all sounds pretty standard — but not exactly innovative. As one commenter points out, Apple trees have been around for years.