April Fools Day is nearly upon us, and for once I’m cautiously optimistic that the internet won’t be awash with bad tech jokes.
April Fools Day used to be fun online. Tech companies would announce fake products and occasionally products that seemed like jokes but were actually groundbreaking real ones (Gmail or Amazon Dash buttons, for example).
But then PR folk realised that an April Fools gag was a good way to get some easy coverage, and everyone from the most boring corporations to startups no-one’s ever heard of started doing them. And they’d pitch journalists under embargo about things that weren’t even real in the hope of a bit of lighthearted coverage.
And now, post 2016, it’s worse. In a world where it feels like everyone is lying to us all the time, trust in the media is through the floor, and ‘fake news’ is a phrase that immediately reminds us how fragile our democracies can be, tech companies pretending to launch A.I.-enhanced soap or self-driving tortoises just feels like unnecessary noise.
So it was refreshing to see that Microsoft is keeping out of it this year. The Verge reports
“In an internal memo, obtained and verified by The Verge, [marketing chief Chris] Capossela explains that “data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.” He encourages all teams inside Microsoft not to do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts.”
I hope other companies follow suit. And of course, journalists can do their bit by ignoring the whole sorry mess of a day.
It feels a little sad to say people shouldn’t have creative fun on the first day of April, but April Fools Day had become way too excessive and noisy in recent years. Maybe one day we’ll learn to have fun with it again, but until then, let’s turn the volume down.