Last week I wrote about April Fool’s Day, and I did a bit of research about it on the Internet. One interesting thing I discovered during that research is that people disagree, argue, jump to conclusions about each other, and are mean-spirited with each other on the Internet.
This should not come as a surprise. Ever since Cain killed Abel in the first-ever carnivore vs vegetarian debate, people have fought.
In 2004 webmail accounts were limited to 1 megabyte of storage. This is plenty for text-only emails. But if, Marvin, your third cousin, twice removed, whom you met once at great Aunt Helga’s funeral, suddenly decided to email you a bazillion pictures of corn fields from the latest family vacation to Terre Haute, IN, suddenly you are out of storage and Hotmail is offering you 5 megabytes of storage for the low, low price of just $19.99 per year.
On April Fool’s of 2004, Sergey Brin’s company, Google, offered Gmail for the very first time. Gmail would allow 1000 times as much storage as the other providers for the very low, low price of free.
And marketing experts were angry. How could Google commit such an egregious marketing error, offering such a service on the international day of pranks. Mr. Brin, I think, has a very finely tuned sense of humor, along with a knack for providing good technology. This “joke” was three-pronged.
First, it set the cat amongst the pigeons for all of the other webmail providers. Imagine the scene around conference tables at Hotmail, Yahoo, and Excite (remember them?) All the suited executives, wearing ties so tight it reduced blood flow to the head, and consequently the brain, were in a tizzy. They wondered if this was real. How could it be? Perhaps someone should sign up for this Gmail and see if it was real.
In fact some people refused to believe it was real until April 2 or 3, and that was the second prong of the joke. It was real, and it was still around days later, and as we know now, would still be around 10 years later. That is the second prong, that it would still be around the day after April Fool’s.
The third prong directly poked those marketing experts who decried the offering of a new service on a day set aside for jokes. They horribly underestimated the desire of people to actually keep Marvin’s pictures of the "Cornfields of Terre Haute".
Google and Mr. Brin didn’t think the need to keep those pictures was corny at all.
You can email me, rfdistaffen at gmail. Pictures of cornfields are always accepted, but may not always be treasured.