Grading Google's April Fools' Day

Because it's not funny unless it's verified as funny.

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This year’s crop of Google hi-jinx

Google generally doesn’t skimp on the April Fool’s jokes and this year is no exception – so why not suck some of the fun out of everything by assigning letter grades? Enjoy!

Credit: YouTube.com
An actual cloud

THANK you, Google – this is one of those jokes that’s been floating around, waiting for someone to make it, since we first heard the term “cloud computing.” Somebody finally got it right, and we can all move on with our lives.

GRADE: A-

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Self-browsing Chromebooks

Google’s April Fools gags are sometimes alarming, in that they indirectly paint a picture of what Google engineers really think about us – this “self-browsing” extension that tweets, browses and emails apparently automatically for Chromebook users suggests an idyllic (for Google) world without humans.

GRADE: B

Credit: YouTube.com
SmartBox

And, other times, they’re just kind of silly and fun. This premium heated, automated mailbox that sends notifications to your smartphone when you receive actual paper mail is one of those, complete with aspirational music and ad production.

GRADE: A

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Chrome selfies

A little on-the-nose, don’t you think? Given that many people’s smartphones are essentially dedicated selfie-sharing devices in the first place, this seems like “hey guys, don’t people take a lot of selfies? Remember that time Ellen DeGeneres did it at the Oscars? Am I right? Am I right?”

GRADE: D

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The site’s backwards

Oh, come on. Now you’re just not trying, Google. (Type com.google into browser window, roll eyes.)

GRADE: F

Credit: YouTube.com
Google Panda

This is another one of those weird Google wish-fulfillment things – Google wants to be seen as approachable and non-threatening, rather than omnipotent and largely indifferent to users beyond their value as sources of marketable information. We’re the cuddly world-consuming info-tyrant!

GRADE: C

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Pac-Man

Playing Pac-Man on Google Maps is, in a word, fun – although I had a really hard time with some of my nearby neighborhoods, given that many of them are in Boston. It’s a good thing there’s no Waze integration for traffic updates, since I can easily picture Pac-Man and the ghosts stuck in a miles-long traffic jam on Storrow Drive, glancing at their watches and occasionally honking their horns.

Credit: YouTube.com
Google Fiber dial-up

Not as clever as a couple of the other ones – a little too “look how cool we REALLY are ha ha” – but it’s an effective self-spoof nevertheless. I guess I’m sort of a sucker for Google knocking off its own announcement videos.

GRADE: B

Credit: YouTube.com
Sandstorm on everything

Here’s an opportunity to have more Sandstorm in your life! Thank heavens! Now if I can just figure out a way to consume more advertising and hear more about the Kardashians, I’ll be all set! (It’s the musical notes button, bottom-right.)

GRADE: F

Google

Here's a look back at the 2014 jokes Google put together. Google is the standard-setter of mirth and merriment on April Fools’, rolling out a yearly crop of light-hearted jokes. So we thought, “hey, let’s ruin everything by handing out letter grades!” What follows is a hard-hearted look at all this frivolity.

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Credit: YouTube.com
Gotta catch em all!

Google got started early, releasing a Maps add-on Monday that lets users catch Pokemon by tapping on their smartphone’s screen. No, YOU got annoyed that they don’t have it on the desktop site.

GRADE: Giving this a solid B. It’s not the cleverest one I’ve ever seen, but Google’s production values are characteristically strong.

Shelfies
Shelfies

Google sends up the digital-age narcissism that it has helped to create by offering this photo-background feature, designed to provide the option for others to set your picture as their Gmail theme. Google finds us so amusing, after all.

GRADE: B+. The best pranks dance as close as possible to the edge of “this could actually be something being done in earnest.”

google pranks
Credit: YouTube.com
Data-less decision-making

An enthusiastic member of Google’s analytics team introduces us to the wonders of making decisions based on stuff that doesn’t make it into data sets, or as Google thinks of it, stuff that doesn’t exist.

GRADE: C+. Cute, but there are no Pokemon or hilarious newspeak terms involved.

google pranks
Credit: YouTube.com
Coffee-to-the-Home

Google Fiber’s contribution to the festivities is a nightmarish fever-dream for Starbucks. Great details abound, including what appears to be a functioning mock-up of the coffee-to-the-home spout, a shot of the “coffee server backend,” and a witty jab at Google’s love of data, in the form of the predictive coffee selector. Also, I loved the people sitting on the floor around the coffee spout.

GRADE: A. Lots of very funny little touches.

Hasselhoff photobombs
Hasselhoff photobombs

I get that we’re all lazy Instagram filter monkeys these days, but surely even the dullest of us can be bothered to shop a picture of David Hasselhoff into our portraits. Barely above a Chuck Norris joke, at this point.

GRADE: D+. This is what it looks like when you spread the funny too thin, Google.

Official viral video trends for 2014
Credit: YouTube.com
Official viral video trends for 2014

There’s something about the idea of YouTube content being centrally planned that will never not be funny. YouTube’s “peek” at 2014’s video trends is awesome, although I’m sort of depressed because I know some people will actually attempt some of these things. Culture has eaten itself.

GRADE: There is a person named Kung Pao O’Reilly in this video, so A. 

WazeDates
Credit: YouTube.com
WazeDates

Crowdsourced navigation app Waze is a recent Google acquisition, and it has hit the ground running with this enthusiastically straight-faced announcement of a traffic-based dating service.

GRADE: B+. Good writing, including lines like: “I’ve always been a big fan of honking, but honking only takes you so far.”

Something from Google Japan
Credit: YouTube.com
Something from Google Japan

I’ll be honest, I have very little idea what’s happening here, but it certainly does seem to be a prank, though given Japan’s predilection for robots and really hilarious advertising, I can’t be entirely sure. Seriously, though, the tie version is the best.

GRADE: A-, I think.

Emoji translation
Credit: YouTube.com
Emoji translation

We need information more quickly than the written word can provide it, so Android and iOS Chrome users can now use “translate to emoji” to dumb websites down enough to read them on tiny screens.

GRADE: B. Funny, but this is almost TOO close to something that someone would do in earnest. And then hold an IPO. Best line: “If somebody were able to just explicitly say, ‘hey, I’m flirting with you,’ or ‘hey, I’m mocking you,’ that would just make my life a lot more efficient.”