Google Inc. had already become popular for its April Fools day pranks by the year 2004. However, the company did not know that one of its jokes would change the history of technology and improve communication all over the world. That year, Google seemed to be prepared to surprise its customers with creative jokes but the outcome was unexpected.
The first April Fools day prank was all about Google announcing the availability of numerous job vacancies on the moon. The second one, which proved to be the game-changer, was all about the search company launching a free email service that would provide users with not one or two megabytes, but 1000 megabytes of storage. If the joke was to be true, it would mean that an average user would not have to delete emails again just to find more storage space for incoming ones.
What most people did not know was the fact that unlike the previous pranks, the Gmail one was real. Gmail was set to become a real product that would offer better storage capacity than its main competitors Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. However, the tech media had to spend some time figuring out how this would be possible. According to Georges Harik, the director of Google’s in-house start-up at the time, the company received numerous calls from journalists asking if the Gmail revelation was an April Fools day joke or not.
Most people considered the April Fools day joke a huge PR mistake but early Gmail product manager Brian Rakowski revealed that the main idea was to form the kind of joke that would become a reality even beyond April 1. This shocking announcement proved to be the greatest turning point for Google from a search engine to the world’s largest internet company. The April Fools day prank also revolutionized email and how people thought about web apps and cloud storage.
Before the introduction of Gmail, some of the major problems experienced by email users included: slow loading speed, terrible search functions, availability of spam emails, inability to organize messages by conversation, low storage capacity, and the need to delete existing emails in a bid to find more storage space. This is where Gmail came in to provide a better solution due to the fact that it was designed using Ajax rather than the old HTML system. It taught many people who web applications could run as smoothly as their desktop versions as they discovered the true potential of cloud storage.
Ten years later, Google’s rivals have started copying Gmail to an extent where it is almost impossible to remember how horrible they were before. Whether it was a PR disaster or not, the fact still remains that the April Fools day joke changed the history of technology. It immediately proved how the best inventions in the world are the ones that tackle the current problems faced by most human beings. At the moment, Gmail provides up to 500,000 pages of email per user among other benefits, a scenario that was virtually impossible ten years ago.
By Andrew Wandola