Google loves a good joke, which is a pretty unusual trait for a gargantuan, multinational outfit. For more than a decade the company has been a purveyor of gags, pranks, hoaxes and Easter eggs -- hidden messages, jokes or features -- both inside its products and services, or elsewhere online. For an extensive list of Google's goofy antics, check out this Wikipedia page.
With Easter arriving the day before April Fools' Day this year, now seems like the ideal time for a visual tour of Google's best gags in recent years. This slideshow focuses on pranks and Easter eggs that are still available -- many are removed over time -- so you can check them out yourself.
Google's hoaxes are often quite elaborate. Many include phony product tours, press releases and even professional-looking promotional videos for such "new" services such as Google Romance with "Soulmate Search," Google Book Search with scratch and sniff, and Google Talk goes green, an April Fools' classic from 2008 in which Google pledged to temporarily cut CO2 emissions by transmitting users' messages in abbreviated "IM-speak."
So why does Google do it? For a variety of reasons, probably. Levity, particularly self-deprecating humor, can make a monolithic search giant seem a little more human and a little less threatening. Google management probably also sees value in allowing its staff to have fun by creating these gags, which the company's customers seem to enjoy as well. And because the pranks, hoaxes and Easter eggs generate regular media coverage -- yes, like this article -- for the company, they're an inexpensive source of positive publicity.
Furthermore, the gags may help Google maintain some of its irreverent start-up spirit, which generally fades as a company gets big and buttoned down, and loses its sense of fun.
Other tech companies do silly stuff too, of course, but few can match Google's dedication to goofiness. But maybe that's not so surprising when one of your co-founders routinely wears a pair of prototype computer spectacles in public.
The best Google pranks promise new features that are often impossible given today's technology, and yet strangely compelling. Care to know what zoo animals are thinking? Ready to travel to Mars in 2014? Google is on it.
But enough of the armchair psychology. Explore our slideshow to see Google's 10 best gags, pranks, hoaxes and Easter eggs. There are plenty of examples we had to leave out, so please add your favorites in the comments below.