Google reverses Gmail April 1 prank after users mistakenly put GIFs into important emails

Google has reversed one of its April Fools’ Day pranks after it caused a number Gmail users to unwittingly insert GIFs into business emails and other important communications.

The U.S. internet giant is usually celebrated for its creative April Fools gags — some of its others today are funny — but the Big G’s attempt to inject humor into email via a ‘Mic Drop’ button that inserts a Minions GIF in Gmail messages backfired.

“Today, Gmail is making it easier to have the last word on any email with Mic Drop. Simply reply to any email using the new ‘Send + Mic Drop’ button. Everyone will get your message, but that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it. Yes, even if folks try to respond, you won’t see it,” Google explained when it launched the button on April 1.

Sounds fun in theory, sure, but when your email service has more than one billion active users, many of whom rely on it for business and professional communication, then things can get a little dicey. (Importantly, the feature does not appear to be enabled for Google Apps customers who pay to use Google’s business suite, which includes corporate email, but others who use the regular service did have it.)

Then, the button placement was problematic. Google substituted “send and archive” — which many people use habitually and click on without a second thought — for ‘MicDrop,’ making it a recipe for disaster for many.

An initial warning did pop up, but anyone who didn’t catch that was in for a surprise.

Here’s how easy it was to send:

Gmail Mic Drop_Send

And this was the result:

Gmail Mic Drop_Receive

Andy Baio, former Kickstarter CTO and founder of XOXO Festival, was one of a number of users who mistakenly hit the button on an important email.

Beyond messing with the tone of an email, Drop The Mic also muted all replies — irreversibly:

There were seemingly plenty of others Gmail devotees affected. As Baio pointed out, Google’s Gmail support pages attracted plenty of complaints.

One user claimed to have lost business as a result of the prank:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 13.17.05

This person mistakenly dropped the mic with a number of important contacts:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 13.14.50

Another did the same:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 13.16.57

One business user warned of the potential issues:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 13.16.12

One Gmail user said the button was enough to tempt them to change email provider:

Screenshot 2016-04-01 13.15.49

And those are just the ones who took the time to complain.

Yes, Google does have an undo button for recalling emails that went out wrong, but in this case the familiarity of the button placement may have lulled many Gmail regulars into a false sense of security.

Google, to its credit, has been open to feedback and has acted quickly to remove the feature.

Here’s the company statement, emoji included we’re told:

Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟  Due to a bug, the MicDrop 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.

We pressed Google on the “bug,” and a spokesperson explained “in a very few cases” the MicDrop feature could appear in future emails even if the user hadn’t specifically pressed the button.

Lesson here for would-be pranksters and particularly smaller companies with limited resources: spend your time building your product not a gag, because even the best in the business can get it horribly wrong sometimes.

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