Google is synonymous with "search engine" and, every year at this time, it also becomes interwined with April Fools' Day. For this year's jokes, the technology giant offers olfactory search, treasure maps, fiber to the pole and mobile cash.
YouTube, which has actually been an eight-year contest to find the best video, is closing down at midnight, reopening in 10 years with only the winner on display. A Treasure Map Mode for Google Maps lets users see 2D hand-drawn maps and landmarks, and Google Wallet Mobile ATM is an attachment that allows users to get cash right from their smartphone.
The Levity Algorithm, a new option in Google Apps, automatically turns boring meeting titles like "budget review with Eileen" into "drinks w/ S. Colbert," thus dramatically boosting attendance. It can also instantly convert those mundane e-mail subject lines into something like "The New Hotness."
Google spent six years in development, but it is now releasing Gmail Blue. The new version brings e-mail "into the 21st century" by turning all buttons, backgrounds, and menus blue -- a breakthrough technology accompanied by an appropriately breathless introductory video.
Speaking of visuals, you can now open a photo in Google+, select the "Add Emotion" button, and Google will determine the emotional state of everyone in the photo, tagging them with an appropriate face icon.
And, if you've been wondering why the sense of smell should be left out of searches while visuals and sounds have hogged all of the spotlight, Google has an answer. It's the new Google Nose, now in beta and based on the company's Aromabase that was created by vehicles inhaling into the Android Ambient Odor Collection software as they cruise the world's roads. When you find a smell, like that old favorite "wet dog," you can share it with others, and you can sample other smells that people who sniffed wet dog "also sniffed."
If you use Google Analytics, do not be surprised today to find some of your visitors are from the International Space Station. If you want access to googlebits per second, Google Fiber boxes are being installed on utility poles, where subscribers can patch in for a quick burst of ultra-fast transmission. Want to spruce up your house? Google Australia has a SCHMICK tool to make your abode prettier in Street View.
Current Analysis' Brad Shimmin suspects that, inside Google, employees are competing for "bragging rights" for the most popular or most inventive joke. But, regardless of who wins that competition, if it exists, Shimmin described Google's annual jokefest as "brilliant marketing."
He said it was "doubtful" that the April Fools' jokes started out that way, since they likely were the invention of irreverent engineers, but now it's become an imaginative outlet for Googlers and a word-of-mouth tour de force for the company.
Which is why Google is seeing competition in April Fools' jokes, as in all things. Virgin Airlines is launching the world's first glass-bottomed plane. Twitter, where briefer is better, has announced its new free service, Twttr, but no vowels allowed. If you want to continue to tweet with vowels in the regular service, that'll be $5 monthly. And Sony has found a completely new product category: devices targeted at your pets.