Google's ability to make fun of itself may seem trivial or frivolous. But it's good public relations. It's proof that there are people behind the corporate facade. It's the reason that gaffes like the Google Buzz launch look more ham-handed than evil. It's one of the reasons that Google's brand is so beloved.
It's something Microsoft, not to mention the even more humor-deprived Apple, dearly needs. What's the message from Redmond, Washington, on April Fool's Day? A press release about how software piracy is no laughing matter.
Microsoft clearly has the capacity for humor, as CEO Steve Ballmer has proven. But such incidents seem more likely accidents than the subversive silliness coming from Google every year at this time.
Consider Google CEO Eric Schmidt's blog post announcing that Google has changed its name to Topeka, in honor of Topeka, Kansas' name change to Google in an effort to become a test site for the company's ultrafast broadband network.
There's also Google Translate for Animals, Google physicists discover extra dimension in Street View, the Google ReaderAdvantage program, LifeSize Picasa photos, Google Mobile's Where Am I? search, Gmail's vowel outage, Google Docs' new feature: storing physical objects in the cloud, Google's Java humor for developers, Google Voice's standard voicemail mode, and YouTube's new text viewing mode.
To be sure, there are plenty of April Fool's jokes from companies other than Google.
Starbucks' mock announcement of new drink sizes -- Micra and Plenta -- deserves mention.
But I can't think of any other large company that takes humor quite so seriously.
Thanks, Google, for a few good laughs.
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