Category Archives: Technology

April Fools: YouTube shuts, Google smells

Twitter did away with vowels, Google unveiled a button to add smells and the cast of the 1990s sitcom Wings launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The digital world celebrated April Fools’ Day with the rollout of mock innovations and parody makeovers.

Many of the top online destinations spent Monday mocking themselves and, in Google’s case, playfully trying to lure users into pressing their noses against their computer screens.

Google, having already debuted its wearable Google Glass, on Monday showcased Google Nose to add scents to it search results.

It urged visitors to lean in close and take a deep whiff for search results such as “unattended litter box”.

“In the fast-paced world that we live in, we don’t always have time to stop and smell the roses,” product manager Jon Wooly said in a video.

“Now with Google Nose Beta, the roses are just a click away.”

YouTube, despite 72 hours of video uploaded every minute, said it was shutting down.

The Google-owned video site joked that its eight-year rise was merely a lengthy talent search.

At the end of the day, nominees were to no longer be accepted so judges could, for the next 10 years, sift through the billions of videos and declare a winner.

Google has always been one of the most enthusiastic April Fools’ Day observers, and on Monday it trotted out an extensive lineup of satire. It also added a “treasure map mode” to Google Maps, complete with “underwater street view,” and trumpeted Gmail Blue, in which the revolutionary upgrade is the simple addition of the colour blue.

The comedy site Funny or Die parodied the recent Kickstarter campaign for a Veronica Mars movie with a number of crowd-funding campaigns for other 1990s shows, including Wings and Family Matters. The mock campaigns included videos with original cast members trapped by nostalgia.

“You’ve been asking for it for years,” Wings star Crystal Bernard says in a video asking for $87 million. “Think of it like a $1000 ticket to the film. Or $20,000!”

Instead of linking to a way to donate money, the mock campaigns led users to charities including the Make-a-Wish Foundation: “Please channel that giving energy into one of these very real, very worthy charities,” read the site, slyly suggesting a more deserving cause for donation than Kickstarter projects.

Twitter, not content with the brevity of 140 characters, said it was “annncng” Twttr, a service that would limit messages to just consonants. In an apparent dig at the splitting in half of Netflix memberships between DVD and streaming, Twitter said users would now have to pay $5 a month for the premium use of vowels.

Netflix, meanwhile, boasted joke genre categories such as “Reality TV about people with no concept of reality”.

Hulu offered a new slate of programming for its video site, presenting fictional series as if real, completed shows. 30 Rock fans were baited with the promise of an actual The Rural Juror (a fake film frequently alluded to on 30 Rock starring Jane Krakowski’s character), and Arrested Development watchers were tempted by finally getting to see an episode of Mock Trial with J Reinhold.

In London, The Guardian poked fun at its competitors – and itself – by telling readers it was launching “augmented reality” Guardian Goggles, complete with optional anti-bigotry technology, to offer “immersive liberal insight”.

“It is not yet understood how glasses-based immersive journalism will be handled by the emerging new regulatory framework for the UK media. But Hugh Grant said he would issue an authoritative ruling on the question within the next two weeks,” the Guardian said.

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YouTube’s April Fool’s Joke: Site Will Close, Relaunch in 2023

YouTube April Fools 2 - H - 2013

The site teases the fake news that it will shut down at midnight.

April Fool’s day is arriving early for YouTube.

In a video uploaded on the site on Sunday, the company teases the fake news that it will be shutting down at midnight so that its tech team can comb through every clip to pick the best video in the world.

“30,000 technicians” will sift through all the clips, and a winner “will be announced when the website goes back online in 2023,” states an actor playing a YouTube competition director.

YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar makes an appearance in the clip as does internet celebrity Antoine Dodson, who quips: “I encourage everybody to watch as many videos as possible before YouTube deletes everything tonight.”

YouTube deemed the prank clip part of a yearly tradition and also created a fake blog post touting the closure of the site.

“April Fools’ Day is a big part of YouTube’s culture,” a company spokesperson stated. “Each year, we enjoy finding ways to celebrate our community’s creativity, be it throwing it back to 1911 as we did in 2011 or 2008’s prank of Rickrolling every video on our site.”

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Google Reader alternatives: The good, the “meh’ and the great?

Good night, sweet prince.

The good folks over in Mountain View are shuttering Google Reader, the search engine giant’s popular web-based RSS service, on July 1, leading to much wailing and gnashing of teeth for news junkies across the Internet Wednesday night.

Google brief blog post hints at the reasoning behind the shutdown, that fit with the company’s recent trend of killing off niche products (like the recently acquired Snapseed’s desktop apps) so they can focus on fewer products with their (considerable) resources. Some suspect that Reader’s functionality will make its way another Google product like Google+ (or the Currents app, mentioned below), so the hunt is on for other options.


Feedly (Web, iOS, Android)
Feedly looks like one of the strongest of the bunch and it is taking that potential role seriously. The company has a blog post announcing their new service Normandy, which aims to clone the backend of Google Reader without a user having to do a thing. As far as the web and mobile apps go, they are slick and are very configurable to suit just about any usage. Keep an eye on this one come summer.

Newsblur (Web, iOS, Android)
The closest mirror to Google Reader as it exists today is Newsblur, a multi-platform straight-forward reader that looks and acts a whole lot like the dearly departed Reader (but slower, which might be due to the fact that it’s getting slammed with traffic right now). The catch: If you want the full experience, you’re going to have to pay for it. Admittedly it isn’t much (the full site unlocks for $1/month), but that’s $12 a year more than Google was asking.

The Old Reader (Web only)
If all you want is an exact replica of the web-based Google Reader, with no social media connections or really anything else, The Old Reader is right up your alley. They are swamped right now and can’t import your Google Reader feeds at the moment, but once the hubub dies down, this will be the go-to alternative for fans of minimalism (like this user is).


Flipboard (iOS, Android)
Not long after the debut of the iPad, and with it the idea of actually using a tablet regularly, Flipboard debuted with a revolutionary design that was part high-gloss magazine, part Google Reader. There have been many changes since it debuted, including moving from just iPads to iPhones and Android devices, but it’s still at the top of its game and has spawned a lot of competition. UPDATE: Flipboard has gone so far as to build in a seamless transition of your feeds. Read more on their blog.

Google Currents (iOS, Android)
In a nutshell: Google noticed Flipboard and made its own version of a magazine reader. It’s actually pretty good, too, and unlike Reader, it’s still getting support from Google.


Zite, Pulse, Taptu
All of these apps do kind of the same thing in similar ways. Clearly their idea is to put a new, tile-based face on the old stodgy act of reading RSS feeds. The problem is that none of them quite get it right and, truthfully, a lot of people (this author included) just want to power through a couple hundred articles at once, which this kind of thumbnail-based interface just doesn’t allow.


WordPress, the venerable DIY blogging platform, debuted a feature a little over two years ago called, appropriately, “Reader,’ to help users keep track of their favorite WordPress blogs. But as fellow TechKnow Bytes blogger Laura Keeney reports, WordPress is developing a new set of features that could make it the best choice to replace Reader in the hearts and minds of news junkies.

Not content to let WordPress have all the fun, Digg, another of the former big players in the Web 2.0 push that has recently undergone a rebirth of its own, has jumped into the fray to build their own reader app, which you can help test. That site will also serve as a handy countdown timer for the most melodramatic and heartbroken Google Reader users.

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