Outsourcing

Geek Trivia: Pranks, but no pranks

What real announcement for a highly successful Google product was assumed to be the latest in the company's long line of April Fool's hoaxes -- both because the product seemed too good to be true, and because Google made the mistake of announcing it just before April 1st?
What real announcement for a highly successful Google product was assumed to be the latest in the company's long line of April Fool's hoaxes -- both because the product seemed too good to be true, and because Google made the "mistake" of announcing it just before April 1st?

Some of you may be reading the newsletter version of this very column via the product in question, as Gmail was released on March 31, 2004. Some have suggested that Google timed the product release intentionally to imply it was a prank, if only to capitalize on the word-of-mouth marketing that would result when users realized that Gmail was in fact a serious product.

For the sake of context, Gmail was released with one gigabyte of storage at a time when other competing free Web mail products were placing restrictions on storage -- often in the range of less than 10 megabytes. (In-house e-mail storage issues were also becoming an increasing issue for corporate IT administrators, thanks to the archive requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.) The idea that Google would give away a gigabyte of storage for a free product seemed impossible.

Google went back to the same publicity stunt in 2005, announcing that Gmail storage was doubling to two gigabytes. Astute observers weren't so incredulous this time around, though many folks still thought Google's Ride Finder service, released the same day, was a joke. (Granted, Ride Finder is now defunct, so maybe the nonbelievers were on to something.)

In 2007, the Gmail hoax came full circle, as new fake features for Gmail became a signature April Fool's prank from Google. In 2007, users were offered Gmail Paper (as in, a print function), which was touted as an analog version of the e-mail system that would be supplemented by couriers (mail carriers) who visit a Gmail box outside your house. In 2008, a whole host of Gmail hoax options appeared, but the most high profile was Gmail Custom Time, which let you send e-mails backwards in time to create alibis and excuses.

That's not just some snarkily circular verisimilitude; it's an annually ostentatious example of offbeat Geek Trivia.

The quibble of the week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from our assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

Check out this week's quibble.

Falling behind on your weekly Geek fix?

Check out the Geek Trivia Archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Geek Trivia.

Test your command of useless knowledge by subscribing to TechRepublic's Geek Trivia newsletter. Automatically sign up today!

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

7 comments
misceng
misceng

In the UK a company is putting fibre optic cable down sewers in several towns to extend broadband coverage to the home. It saves a fortune by not digging up streets. This will improve on the service currently provided by phone lines which are claimed to give "up to 8Mb/s" but actually give much slower speeds.

james
james

Are you really Dave Gorman?

williams
williams

And this year Introducing CADIE: a singular upgrade to your online life

bigduck
bigduck

I actually knew the answer. It has only taken me 9 years :(

isabelavijay
isabelavijay

Thanks a lot for the earlier reply Jay about the Swede Swiss mismatch lol. Anyways it was heartening to see such lovely explanations for the small typo which happened. Voila, it seems that I did a small Rip Van Winkle here writing nearly after 4 months the article was first written by you on Dec 9th. Keep the articles coming. Cheers Vijay(Indian IT Sales based in Romania)

Editor's Picks