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One of Google’s April Fools’ jokes has already failed spectacularly

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

April Fools' Day is barely underway, and Google has already had a joke backfire: A "mic drop" button in Gmail that inserted a GIF from the Minions movies into an email reply, and then hid all subsequent replies, ended up infuriating people who use their Gmail for professional reasons.

Gif of mic drop button Google

The "mic drop" button was in the same spot where the "send and archive" button usually is, and thanks to muscle memory, plenty of people ended up clicking it who didn't intend to.

"I use gmail for my one-man business," one wrote on Google's forums. "I can't afford for you clowns to mess around with my business."

"April fools jokes are great fun but not when they affect my business correspondence and increase the chance of something serious occurring like not seeing my clients' responses to important emails," another wrote.

Google ended up apologizing: "Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs."

The "mic drop" uproar shows how pranks are viewed differently when they come from a corporate behemoth rather than a scrappy startup.

Google has been doing April Fools' jokes since 2000, not long after the company was founded. When the company announced Gmail, it was on April 1 with a conversational, unserious-sounding press release. The amount of storage Gmail offered was so unprecedented at the time that many people assumed the product was just another company prank, like the lunar research station it announced the same day.

But Gmail is no longer a joke, and Google is no longer a scrappy startup — its parent company, Alphabet, is the world's most valuable company, and it's learning that it can't always afford to make a joke users might not get.