Tech companies love April Fools' Day, and can be counted on to try to prank their users with an ad for some inane new feature. But sometimes their pranks backfire.
On Thursday night, on the eve of April 1, a day which Katie Rogers of The New York Times rightly describes as "the worst day of the year," Google's Gmail team rolled out a new, jokey feature called "Mic Drop." Here's how it was described:
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). 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).
Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new 'Send + Mic Drop' button. Everyone will get your message, but that's the last you'll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won't see it.
The feature actually sounds useful to anyone who has ever been stuck on an endless "Reply All" conversation. But it was terribly designed and included this little twist: When a Gmail user activated the Mic Drop button, it added to the message a GIF of a Minion (from the Despicable Me franchise) dropping a microphone. Specifically, this GIF:
Standard-procedure boring tech company April Fools' joke, except for a couple things. First, the 'Mic Drop' drop button was right next to and looked almost identical to the Send button:
Second, there was no way to remove the button.
Messages were quickly posted to Google's product forums, Twitter, and elsewhere annoyed at the button. A couple product forum posters claimed it'd likely cost them their job or job interviews (it's unclear if that's the case, since at least one user reported that the GIFS were only added on his end).
Regardless, this morning the Mic Drop button was removed and an update was added to the blog post in which it was announced (italics theirs):
UPDATE: Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.
Gmail, and Google more broadly, have a history of April Fools' jokes, like Gmail Paper (read: printing) from 2007, or 2012's Gmail Tap (2-key keyboard). Usually, though, as those examples hopefully illustrate, they've typically been more optional if not entirely conceptual.
In the short run this means we're spared a whole day of a bad joke, and in the long run, it will hopefully mean that we are spared from future Gmail jokes. But, more interestingly, it provides insight into our perception of the role of Google and Gmail. Aside from being an instance of very bad design, the Mic Drop concept felt less like a company playing a joke and more like a public utility messing with its customers. It was like the post office slipping a picture of a Minion in a thong into your envelope because you absentmindedly affixed the wrong stamp.
Enjoy the rest of this awful day!
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org