Ah, April Fool’s Day. Other sites are covering the pranks pulled by the tech community extensively today — I like the fact that Techcrunch is grading them — but I’m going to take this opportunity to do what I do best: Read way too much into seemingly innocuous decisions.
For example: the new YouTube setting that transforms most videos into ASCII art is beautifully executed and fun to play with…
But does the fact that they cite it as a cost-cutting measure (“By using text-only mode, you are saving YouTube $1 a second in bandwidth costs”) mean we should be more skeptical about analyst claims that the site will be profitable this year?
Plus, sure it’s cute that Google is rebranding itself as Topeka today — but it’s a move that seems to signify a longing for simpler times and places, one that might mean Google is exhausted by this complicated world of ours.
College Humor warns that its site is under investigation for un-American activities — a joke which might have played better during the more paranoid days of the Bush Administration, but might also have been seen as a too-possible usage of the still-in-effect Patriot Act. Still, the prank invokes a healthy fear of authority that jibes nicely with the site’s sensibilities. (Also, it gives me an awesome idea for an film: Jake and Amir Go To Guantanamo Bay.)
This year, Funny or Die followed up on last year’s Reba or Die stunt with an even better get — Justin Bieber, who’s taken over the site and is now reenacting viral videos and telling you what he thinks of you (by the way, are 15-year-olds allowed to chain smoke in Canada? Because, girl, you sound thrashed).
As fun as it is, though, Bieber’s presence underlines one of the key facets of Funny or Die’s existence — its addiction to celebrity star power to drive views. Is this joke really just a desperate cry for help? Will Dr. Drew need to get involved?
The one prank this year that I don’t find any deeper meaning in is Hulu’s “confidential training and orientation video (sadly unembeddable (accessed by clicking on the new “3D” feature), which is narrated by Alec Baldwin and posits that television is a secret alien plot to rot American brains.
The thing is, we’ve heard that before from them. And, frankly, it’s probably true.
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