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Google's Top Easter Eggs, Gags, and Hoaxes: 2011 Edition

We've compiled more goofy pranks and stunts from tech's biggest practical joker.

Google's Top Easter Eggs, Gags, and Hoaxes: Take Two

For a ginormous company, Google has an excellent sense of humor. Back in 2008 we selected 17 of our favorite Google Easter eggs and tricks, and the story proved to be one of our most popular articles ever. Three years have passed--plenty of time for Google to cook up more gags (don't those guys have enough work to do?)--and we figure it's time for round two. So here's the 2011 edition of Google's top Easter eggs, gags, and hoaxes. Enjoy.

Dr. Doolittle, Google Style

When your pet barks, meows, or chirps, what is it really trying to say? Thanks to Google's Translate for Animals app, Android phone users now have an easy way to decipher animal sounds. Using your handset, simply record an animal's utterances, which then transmit to Google's server for decoding by sophisticated "speech recognition and translation engines." It's all a big pile of porcine poop, of course, but Google's Translate for Animals demo video is pretty funny.

Chat With Meliza the Martian

You're probably aware that Google Earth lets you visit other celestial bodies. But did you know that it allows you to chat with a Martian robot too? When you're navigating Mars, type "Meliza" in the search window. You'll be transported to Meliza's dusty domain, where you can strike up a conversation with the chat bot. Meliza's conversational skills are limited, however. Here's a snippet from an actual chat:

Meliza: Greetings, Earthling! What do you think of Google Mars?

Earthling: It's very nice.

Meliza: This transmission seems to have problems, I don't understand you.

Earthling: I said it's very nice.

Meliza: You say you said it's very nice ... but do you really mean that?

Google Voice: Don't Be Wordy

The text editor on the Google Voice Website has a playful way of telling you to keep things brief. When a text message exceeds 320 characters, the counter above the message window changes to "Really?" (Translation: "Wrap it up.") Wordsmiths can keep typing until they've reached the 480-character (3 by 160) limit, at which point the text editor stops accepting characters.

Cheeky Search Results

Google shows its mischievous side with select search queries. Enter "recursion," for instance, and at the top of the results page, Google asks: "Did you mean: recursion." Um, yes, in fact, that's exactly what I typed. Click the "recursion" link, and Google reloads the same page. This infinite-loop gag could go on forever, obviously. Wikipedia has more madcap examples, including "nag a ram" as the suggested correction for "anagram." Also, the results page for "ascii art" displays the Google logo as--you guessed it--ASCII art, but only if you've turned off Google Instant.

Goofy Alternative Search Interfaces

We've already told you about Google's specialty search interfaces that are either quirky (Elmer Fudd, Klingon, and Pig Latin) or helpful (specialized search engines for Microsoft, Linux, or BSD Unix). But swashbucklers may prefer Google Pirate ("I Be Feelin' Lucky"), and you might like to try a bizarre assortment of third-party UIs, including the incredibly shrinking Weenie Google, its ever-growing "big brother" Epic Google, the motion-sickness-inducing Google Loco, or GooGoth ("I'm Feeling Depressed"), all of which use Google's search engine on the back end. For best results, however, stick with the real deal.

Brain Search? Sure, Why Not

What will those clever app developers think up next? Google's bogus Brain Search app indexes "the content of your brain to make it searchable, thus bringing you aided retrieval of memories," or so claims the Google Mobile Blog. The secret sauce is Google's CADIE technology, which modifies input wavelengths and allows your phone's antenna to read brain waves. Or something like that. Even better, Brain Search runs on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile devices. (Sorry, Symbian fans, you're on your own.)

Don't Mess With Walker, Texas Ranger

Chuck Norris has been a celluloid tough guy for decades, and Google is obviously terrified of him. Here's proof: Turn off Google Instant, enter "find Chuck Norris" in Google's query box, and click I'm Feeling Lucky. You'll see a blank search-results page save for this cryptic message: "Google won't search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don't find Chuck Norris, he finds you." I'll bet if Bruce Lee had built a search engine, it would find Chuck.

Snake in the Video

If you're stuck watching a yawn-inducing YouTube video--a training clip at work, for instance--alleviate your boredom by playing a game of Snake in the video window. (Never played Snake? It's a low-tech throwback in which the player maneuvers a long, thin "snake" around the screen, trying to engulf a series of blinking dots without hitting the sides of the window.) To activate the game, pause the YouTube clip, hold down the left-arrow key for at least 2 seconds (and keep holding), and then press the down-arrow key. Voilà! Snake appears over the video.

Free Unicorn With 600,000 Points

Reading is fun. Reading while earning "a whole truckload of points" is even more fun. The ReaderAdvantage program, one of Google's many April Fools' gags, rewards bookworms with points for every tome they read. In addition to getting a really cool Google Reader patch, members can trade points in for a lot of neat stuff, including a Decepticon USB drive, a Braille Rubik's cube, or even a bona fide unicorn. Sadly, it's all a joke. Maybe Amazon will offer free unicorns?

Retro Voicemail for Google Voice

Remember when cell phones weren't smart? When people carried pagers? If you yearn for a simpler time, Google Voice's Standard Voicemail Mode is for you. Use the phone's numeric keypad to access voicemail. Web inbox? Nope. Even better, messages are deleted after 14 days. Friends have the option of sending a numeric page, too--although Google isn't exactly sure what a "numeric page" is. What's next, a rotary-dial Nexus phone?

Zounds! Chrome's Annoying Sounds

Few browser extensions are as irritating as Chrome Sounds, an April Fools' Day joke that actually works--if you're foolish enough to install it. According to Google, Sounds provides "a more magical and immersive experience when browsing the web using the power of sound." In reality, its enhancements include the sound of breaking glass when a window closes, and other auditory annoyances that rival nails on a chalkboard.

Fun With Google Translate

The real Google Translate (not the hoax app that deciphers animal sounds) proves that machine translators have a sense of humor too. When you enter "quid pro quo" and translate the phrase from Latin to any language, for instance, the result is "What Happens in Vegas" in the target language. And try translating "Deutsch" from Serbian to German. Wikipedia has more examples, not all of which work.

Google Docs Stores Anything--Yes, Anything

In an ambitious effort to merge the virtual and physical worlds, Google announced on April 1, 2010 (naturally) that it would provide cloud storage for "anything." Yes, users of the Google Docs productivity suite could upload all sorts of items beyond the usual documents and spreadsheets. "Having trouble moving your piano from New York to California? Upload it from your home in New York, then download it once you're in California," blogged Google Docs product marketing manager Peter Harbison. Top that, Microsoft Office!

Hidden Pac-Man

For three days in May last year, Google replaced its traditional homepage logo with a playable version of the venerable Pac-Man arcade game in celebration of the title's 30th anniversary. Google's version still exists--if you know where to find it.

Pegman to Penguin in Google Street View

Pegman helps users of Google Street View navigate unfamiliar territory. But he's also capable of changing wardrobes--and even species--if the location or season calls for it. Visiting Artarctica? In Google Maps, drag Pegman from his home atop the zoom toolbar and place him on the icy continent's northernmost tip. He miraculously transforms from Pegman to penguin (or maybe Peg-penguin). Pegman changes for festive occasions, too: For instance, he rides a broomstick on Halloween, and turns into a snowman for Christmas.