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Google pranks itself with April Fools' Gmail 'mic drop' gag as workplace complaints bubble up

"I too use this for professional business correspondence. Not cool, gmail."


Who knew Minions could cause so much trouble?

Google, a longtime fan of gimmicky April Fools’ jokes, overreached this year. As the day began across the Atlantic, the billion-plus Gmail users discovered a new button alongside “Send” for the “Gmail mic drop.” Pressed, the icon automatically inserts into the email a GIF of the ubiquitous creatures from the “Despicable Me” franchise. Harmless, right?

Apparently not. Turns out, several people were less than pleased to have the gimmick appear in the email they use for business affairs — a particular customer set that Google is now trying to attract. The prank icon replaced the “Send+Archive” button, which users employ to reply to then immediately file away an email thread. When people using Gmail clicked what they thought was simply the “Send+Archive” button, several unintentional e-missives went out. On product forums, many Gmail users complained of accidentally hitting the button in business correspondence. A few even cited jobs lost to the gimmick.

One user wrote on Gmail’s product forum: “I love you gmail but please don’t prank our email. I too use this for professional business correspondence. Not cool, gmail. Not cool.”

Others pointed out a bug in the prank that allowed the GIF to go out unexpectedly. This, it seems, was the excuse Google used in pulling the feature before April Fools barely began in California. From the Gmail blog:

Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.

Another theory: Perhaps the Gmail team, which, as of the start of the year, reports up to Google enterprise chief Diane Greene, grew concerned with the complaints coming from the workplace.

Enterprise is a growing business priority inside Google. The mic drop feature was not deployed for its paying Apps for Work customers, a spokesperson confirmed. However, people clearly use the free Gmail for professional reasons. And cute tricks like this, however innocently devised, don’t necessarily help Google sell more app features to other companies.

For April Fools, Google also released a Cardboard Plastic virtual reality headset, and its X research lab ‘hired’ the lead character from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” As of press time, those pranks remain.

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