april-1

YouTube's April Fools button backfires?

April 1, 2011 at 3:59 PM ET

YouTube /
Old-timey Patty-cake cats!

NOTE: This story has been updated since it was first posted at 4 p.m. ET.

Every April 1, Google pulls out the stops with a plethora of pranks.

This year, Google featured Gmail Motion — kind of a Kinect application for your email; a job posting for Autocompleters to manually help with user searches; and a filter that switches the Web font to the hated Comic Sans when you search "Helvetica" ... or "Comic Sans." 

On Google property YouTube, it was the 100 year anniversary.

It’s hard to believe that just a century ago, YouTube was a fledgling video site for paupers and presidents alike. Today, we celebrate 100 years of YouTube, and we thought we would reflect on our inaugural year with a re-print of our first blog post from 1911. In honor of this milestone, today’s homepage is a reproduction of how you might have viewed it 100 years ago. Check out some of the most popular videos of the time and be sure to try out our new upload mode which summons a horse-drawn carriage to pick up your video submission from your home. Here’s to another epoch of great video!

Clicking the horse-drawn carriage button that appears at the bottom of YouTube videos turns off the noise and cranks up the old-timey piano music — the zany clinky kind that that isn't often appropriate with much of the bottomless content available on the site. This year however, the creative devs apparently didn't think through their big "Centennial" gag for Google property YouTube.  As the Daily Show's Daniel Radosh tweeted:

@danielradosh Uh oh. YouTube probably didn't mean it's 1911 April Fools prank to be quite this edgy. http://t.co/p1JhDR3 (click 1911 on bottom right)

The video leds to footage of Japan's tsunami, set music more befitting a Keystone Cops chase or a mustache-twirlling villian, not an epic natural tradedy with ongoing global ramifications. UPDATE: Since the tweet, YouTube seems to have removed the 1911 button from videos with "earthquake" or "tsunami" in the title. But Gawker takes it a step further, posting a 9/11 video of the World Trade Center, WikiLeaks-infamous video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 12 (including journalists and civilians), and Rodney King's beating by Los Angeles police officer ... and Rebecca Black's "Friday."

In defense of YouTube, it's not as if the video-sharing site is bombarding you with newsreels of the world's horrors set to a zany soundtrack. The only way you're going to actually view the events of 9/11 set to ragtime music is if you or one of your jackass friends actually clicked the 1911 button on the video and forwarded the link.

Otherwise, it's delightful. And it can make unsightly situations, such as Julian Assange cutting a rug at EuroTrash Disco palatable.  So don't be a morbid jerk. Just click the 1911 button on the cats playing patty-cake video and enjoy!

More April Fools' Foolishness:

Helen A.S. Popkin finds April 1 to be the most annoying day on the Internet. Any other day of the year, join her on Facebook and/or Twitter, won't you?  

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