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Why Google's April Fool's prank this year was such a dud

Mic Drop, a new Gmail feature that allows users to insert a humorous gif and withdraw from the conversation, fell flat, say users. 

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In this photo from 2010, a security guard walks past while foreign visitors are seen inside the Google China headquarters in Beijing. Connections to Google Inc.'s popular email service have been blocked in China amid efforts by the government to limit access to the company's services.

Andy Wong/AP Photo/File

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Google is famous for its April Fool’s Day hoaxes, but it seems that this year's attempt fell a little flat. The "Mic Drop" feature, created for Google’s email service Gmail, was quickly shut down after a number of user complaints.

While it lasted, Mic Drop would insert a gif of a minion (those little yellow creatures that first appeared in the animated film "Despicable Me") into your email when you clicked a special orange send button next to the normal send button.

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As an added bonus, users who sent emails using the Mic Drop feature would not receive any replies, having uttered the proverbial final word on the matter.

"Email's great, but sometimes you just wanna hit the eject button. Like those heated threads at work, when everyone's wrong except you (obviously)," said Google in a statement on its Gmail blog. "Or those times when someone's seeking group approval, but your opinion is the only one that matters (amirite?). Or maybe you just nailed it, and there's nothing more to say (bam)."

It was meant to be funny, and maybe a little bit cute, but Google was forced to shut it down after users say the prank led them to accidentally insert gifs into professional or important emails.

Some say that the consequences have been extreme. According to the BBC, Gmail users who accidentally used the feature sent inadvertent prank emails to clients or hiring managers at jobs they were interested in.

The no-reply feature also created hassles.

"I am a writer and had a deadline to meet. I sent my articles to my boss and never heard back from her," said one user on a Google forum. "I inadvertently sent the email using the MicDrop send button."

About 1 million people use Gmail. Although there are no readily available statistics for the number of individuals who use Gmail for business purposes, many businesses use Gmail as their company email service provider, and many freelancers and job applicants rely on the service to contact employers.

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After hours of complaints, Google shut down the feature and posted an apology on its Gmail blog.

"It looks like we pranked ourselves this year," said Google. "Due to a bug, the MicDrop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We're truly sorry."

The MicDrop feature was not Google's only April Fool's Day prank this year. Google also debuted "Snoopavision," which allows users to watch YouTube videos in 360 with Snoop Dogg, and a parachute delivery service, which, if real, would deliver packages to users' homes by parachute.

Google has been pulling April Fool's Day pranks on users since 2000. Past pranks have allowed users to play PacMan in city streets on Google Maps (2015) or use Scratch and Sniff technology on Google Books (2008). None of these pranks interfered with Google's functionality, however, as MicDrop did this year, and that, along with Gmail's popularity, is precisely what made it so damaging.

With the failure of MicDrop, and the swift backlash that followed, it seems unlikely that Google will push more "usable" pranks in the future.

Google first announced Gmail on April Fool's Day in 2004.


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