16 of the Best YouTube April Fool’s Day Pranks (So Far)

16 of the Best YouTube April Fool’s Day Pranks (So Far)

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A couple of weeks ago, I said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future of video marketing.” Generally, this is true. But I’m fairly confident that I can predict that Google and YouTube are making their final preparations for their annual April Fools’ Day hoaxes.

Now, this “tradition” goes back to 2000, when Google’s first April Fools’ Day hoax invited users to project a mental image of what they wanted to find while staring at the MentalPlex gif animation. After staring at the animated gif, clapping my hands three times, chanting “I believe,” and then trying again, I remember finding that I wanted a couple of Tylenol.

16 Best YouTube April Fool’s Day Pranks

#1 Rickrolling Fun: On April 1, 2008, YouTube joined its parent company by linking all the featured videos on its homepage to a video entitled, “Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up,” Rickrolling all of the users of the video sharing site.

#2 A Virgin Collab: That was also the first year that Google used a couple of YouTube videos for its big announcement of Virgle, a joint project with the Virgin Group to establish the first permanent human colony on Mars. One of the videos featured Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, and the other video featured Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. Okay, so no hilarity ensues. But, this was a hoax. So, everyone was supposed to play it straight.

#3 A New Viewing Experience: On April 1, 2009, YouTube gave users a look at a new “viewing experience” when they selected a video within certain areas such as the “recommended for you” section. This new interface caused the whole layout including the video you were watching to flip upside down. A page on “tips for viewing the new layout” suggested users hang their monitors upside down from the ceiling.


#4 CADIE: Meanwhile, Google announced CADIE, a new “Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity,” on March 31, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. And CADIE already had her own YouTube channel and several videos, including one featuring a Panda (two years before the first Panda update was announced). The Panda, which had a female voice, said, “Hello.”

#5 TEXTp: On April 1, 2010, YouTube’s logo was overlaid with ASCII text repeating the character “1”. The YouTube logo was a reference to some videos having a new quality setting called “TEXTp”. As Patrick Pichette, SVP and Chief Financial Officer, Google, said on the Official YouTube Blog, “For every person who selects TEXTp and keeps it on while you watch a video, you save YouTube $1 a second, resulting in potentially billions of dollars of savings for us. So if you care about YouTube, you’ll use TEXTp today.”


#6 Google Translate for Animals: At the same time, Google UK introduced Translate for Animals (beta), an Android application that allowed humans “to better understand our animal friends.” The announcement included a modest little video entitled, “Introducing Google Translate for Animals.”

#7 1911 Filter: On April 1, 2011, a button was added to the YouTube video player which, when clicked, would apply a video filter to the video and replace the audio with a recording of Rhapsody Rag, a piece typically played as background music to silent movies in 1911. If subtitles were enabled when watching the video, intertitles were displayed containing the dialogue. The upload page also featured an option to “send a horse-drawn carriage to me to pick up.” In addition, YouTube unveiled the “Top 5 Viral Pictures of 1911.”

#8 Gmail Motion: Also on that day, Google introduced Gmail Motion, which used “your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands.” The announcement was accompanied by a video entitled, “Introducing Gmail Motion.”

#9 The YouTube Collection: On April 1, 2012, YouTube added a small disc on the right side of the YouTube logo, which when clicked leads to a page about a service called “The YouTube Collection.” It offered every YouTube ever uploaded on DVDs – dispatched in a fleet of 175 trucks. YouTube promoted the service with a video entitled, “The YouTube Collection: The Magic of YouTube in Your Hands.”

#10 Google Maps 8-bit for NES: At the same time, Google Maps 8-bit for NES was finally launched. Although availability of Google Maps for 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment Systems (NES) was TBD, users could try it on their browser by going to Google Maps and clicking “Quest” in the upper right hand corner of the map.

#11 Best Video Ever: On March 31, 2013, Tom Liston, the Competition Director at YouTube, announced “YouTube’s ready to select the winner.” He said, “Tonight at midnight, YouTube.com will no longer be accepting entries.” He added, “After eight amazing years, it is finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner.” In order to do that, the site would be shut down and YouTube wouldn’t return online until 2023 when users would finally be able to see what judges thought was the “Best Video” ever … and nothing else.

#12 Gmail Blue: Also uploaded on March 31, 2013, was a video “Introducing Gmail Blue.” It’s Gmail, only bluer. Why blue? Well, Google had experimented with a lot of different colors. They tried orange, brown (brown was a disaster), and yellow. The inspiration for blue came from nature. Ocean, sky, blue whales.

#13 NewTrends: On March 31, 2014, YouTube announced “Upcoming Viral Video Trends #newtrends.” As the description to the video below says, “Here at YouTube HQ, we write, shoot, and upload all of the world’s most popular viral videos. Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll be watching in 2014.”

#14 Pokemon Maps: Meanwhile, Google joined forces with The Pokémon Company, Game Freak, and Nintendo to develop a new Google Maps app for the iPhone and Android, which allows users to capture Pokémon while exploring the real world using Google Maps.

#15 Sandstorm Takeover: On April 1, 2015, YouTube suggested “Sandstorm by Darude” on many song-related searches. It also adds its button to any video that plays its sequence.

#16 Smartbox: The day before, Google announced Smartbox by Inbox for your physical mail, with auto-sorting folders, push notifications, temperature control, spam protection and more.

What Can we Expect in 2016?

So, if past is prologue, what can we expect YouTube and Google to unveil on Friday, April 1, 2016? Well, my scientific wild-ass guess is that YouTube will announce UntrueView, a new video ad format that makes advertisers pay after a user watches the first three seconds of a video even if the user choses to skip it after five seconds. Hey, if some advertisers seem to want to buy the modern equivalent of “blipverts,” then why should their options be limited to Facebook video?

As for Google, I’d bet dollars to donuts that they will announced that the search engine will offer “the right to be forgotten” to any candidate for President of the United in 2016. This includes the 14 Republican and 4 Democratic candidates who have already dropped out. But it will also extend to any unfortunate comments, disgusting remarks, or political gaffes made by the 3 Republican and 2 Democratic candidates who are still running. Hey, why should the right to be forgotten be limited to the European Union and Argentina?

I know, I don’t have any unnamed sources to back up these predictions. But, I invite you to participate in a little idle speculation of your own. And then share it with other readers of ReelSEO in the comments below.


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