Best of Google 2011: Gags, Easter Eggs, Pranks, and Games

Google spent a goodly amount of time this year playing tricks on readers and amusing them with gags, Easter eggs, fake videos and Web pages, and, of course, the famous interactive Doodles.

Google, the Jokester

Google is full of nerds who are also kind of funny. Don't believe me? Just take a look at this past year, which was full of Google games, hoaxes, Doodles, and other fun tidbits. Here are several of our favorites.

Interactive Doodle: Jules Verne

Google's Doodlers came up with this interactive CSS3 Doodle to celebrate the 183rd birthday of famed French sci-fi author Jules Verne. This Doodle allowed users to navigate the Nautilus "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," using the little navigation lever on the right side. If you happened to be using a device with an accelerometer (such as a tablet), you were also able to navigate by tilting your device. Pretty cool.

Image credit: Google and

Search Fun: Do a Barrel Roll

Here's a fun Google search Easter egg: Type "do a barrel roll" into the Google search box (you'll need to type it into the actual box on, unless you're using Google Chrome), and press Enter. Your entire search results page will "do a barrel roll," in tribute to the popular Nintendo 64 game Star Fox 64. If you have Instant Search turned on, your page will do the barrel roll when you get to the end of "barrel."

April Fool: Gmail Motion

This year's U.S. April Fools' joke from Google was Gmail Motion. According to the video, all you had to do was log in to your Gmail account on a computer with a built-in webcam. Once you enabled Gmail Motion in the settings menu, Gmail would supposedly be able to track your every movement, using advanced spatial tracking tech. Just kidding!

April Fool, Chinese Edition: Google Teleportation

What's that? You're not particularly interested in controlling your email using your body? That's okay, because if you were in China on April Fools' Day this year, you didn't get to experience the hoax that was Gmail Motion. Instead you got something way cooler: teleportation. Yes, Google China invented teleportation, through search that would let users "perceive" everything they wanted to "perceive."

Search Fun: A Google a Day…

On April 12, Google launched a new "game" called A Google a Day. It's a puzzle that you can solve by using Google search. Each day you get a question and the Google search box. You then use your search-savvy to find the answer, and enter it in the answer box. If you're wrong, you'll see hints and tips on how to find the answer.

Street View Gags: Naked Floridian

Okay, so Google isn't really responsible for the crazy stuff its Street View camera captures. I suppose I should give the credit for this "gag" to the Miami woman who decided to hang out on her front porch in the nude while cars were driving by. The lady's dignity has since been preserved via a "pixelation shroud," after The Smoking Gun pointed out the pic in September.

Interactive Doodle: Turkey Eggs

This year's Thanksgiving Google Doodle featured a paper-and-feather hand turkey with interchangeable feathers, shoes, and hats. As fun as the customizable turkey was, it was also rife with Easter eggs: Twelve different feather-and-accessory combinations made the turkey come alive. The animations included an astronaut, a pirate, a princess, a nerd, and a…white box.

Hoax: Comic Sans for Everyone

Earlier this year, Google "announced" Comic Sans for Everyone. According to Google, after "rigorous testing of 41 different fonts," one font "consistently outperformed all others when it comes to user satisfaction, level of engagement, understanding web content, productivity, click-through rates and conversion rates: Comic Sans." Google then said it would be rolling out Comic Sans as the default font across all Google products.

This was a joke, of course, and I'm pretty sure that Comic Sans is the only font that inspires people to throw their monitors across the room. That said, Google did roll out a Google Chrome extension called Comic Sans for Everyone--just in case you need an excuse to buy a new monitor.

Search Fun: Gay Rainbow

Here's another search trick that came about this year: If you searched for "gay" in the Google search box in June, a little rainbow flew out of the search button. This trick debuted (and retired) in June, which is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Google Gag: Chromercise

Google's "Chromercise" page is a gag site that asks whether you want to increase your hands' "STRENGTH and DEXTERITY while browsing the web FASTER and fitting into sleeker, SEXIER gloves."

The site features a video of hands wearing workout "clothes" and doing '80s exercise-video movements. For a limited time, Google also gave away free Chrome finger sweatbands.

Interactive Doodle: Les Paul's Guitar

To mark the birthday of the electric guitar creator, Les Paul, Google created an interactive guitar Doodle. The Doodle was not only strummable, but it also had a record button so that users could capture their tunes and then share them via a unique link.

The Doodle was created in HTML 5, JavaScript, and the Flash plug-in so that it would be compatible with all browsers. It now has a permanent home on Google's site.

Image credit: Les Paul Online

XKCD: The Future According to Google Search Results

Here's another item that Google doesn't get credit for. "The Future According to Google Search Results" comes from the XKCD Web comic. XKCD compiled the list by searching on several terms and noting the first Google search result to come up for each phrase (such as "By <YEAR>" and "By the Year <YEAR>"). The full list is pretty long (it goes from 2012 to 2101), so take a look for yourself.

AdWords Gag: Google Blimp Ads

Google's AdWords are all over the Web--and this joke put them all over the skies, as well. In March, Google "announced" Google Blimp Ads--gBlimps that would "take to the skies," displaying AdWords ads to larger audiences than ever before. gBlimps would reportedly display existing AdWords ads in their original format. The fake effort even "quoted" a made-up grandmother of seven saying that AdWords are "so clear on a big blimp."

Game: Angry Birds as a Web App

Those of you who hate downloads--and green pigs--are in luck: Google made Rovio's popular mobile game into a Web app. You can download the game as a Chrome application, or you can just play it on (Chrome isn't necessary). It's a real-time, multimedia, cross-platform HTML 5 app.

Autocompleter Job

If you use Google search at all, you know about autocomplete--the feature that "completes" your search terms for you, based on popular searches. Well, did you know that the autocomplete feature is backed by human labor?

That's right: In April of this year Google posted a job opening for an "Autocompleter." Not sure if you want to be an Autocompleter? Check out this video testimony from a "real" Google Autocompleter! He knows all the words to all the songs ever made--all of them.

Google Earth Clock

Google Earth Clock may not be an Easter egg, but it is pretty cool--it's a third-party website that assembles a clock based on Google Earth images. Each image comes from a picture of Google Earth that naturally (at least, "naturally" in Google Earth) looks like a number. And you don't get just the same photo over and over--the photos are constantly refreshing, zooming in from the full-Earth view to a new photo of the number every few seconds.

Mobile Tilt Easter Egg

Google's Tilt Easter egg seems to be a warm-up for the "Do a Barrel Roll" Easter egg that appeared in April. If you search Google for tilt, tilted, or askew on your smartphone, you'll notice things get a little off kilter. --Tom Spring

Image credit:

Zombie Gingerbread Easter Egg

Google doesn't stop at hiding Easter eggs in its desktop products--they're also in its mobile software, Android. In Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3), you can find an illustration of a zombie gingerbread man hanging out with the Android robot, if you know where to look. Go to Settings, About Phone and tap the Android version number several times. The zombie art, by Jack Larson, will appear after several taps.

Image credit (zombie): Flickr user danhollisterduck

Image credit (Easter egg): User teknoraver at XDA-Developers

Nyandroid ICS Easter Egg

Google's latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, hasn't officially dropped, but developers have already discovered an Easter egg. Here's how to see it: Go to Settings, About Phone and tap the Android version several times in a row. A little Android will appear. Long-press on the Android, and he'll get bigger--until he gives way to tons of tiny Androids zooming across your screen, Nyan-Cat style.

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