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Stamos Documentary? Trader Joe's Closing? Cornhub? Must Be April Fools' Day

The hall of mirrors that is April Fools' Day is upon us, and that means all news emerging until midnight tonight is suspect. The pranks range from outright hoaxes to jokes — some of which have already gone very badly.

Suspicions are high: Some are wondering why Taylor Swift would release a video promoting Apple Music, a service she pointedly criticized when it first went live, on this day of all days.

And we can be forgiven for wondering whether astronomers really found "the first star with an almost pure oxygen atmosphere" — a white dwarf that's puzzling scientists.

Both of those events seem legit. They simply came out amid a flood of faux news that has caused both laughs and groans — including one joke, by Google, that seems to have backfired entirely.

Here's a selection of April Fools' observations in 2016:

Everything's Coming Up Stamos

In an elaborate hoax that seems all too plausible in today's age of commoditized reality, actor John Stamos and Netflix announced a new collaboration that ranges from a "docu-mini" (?!) to putting the Stamos touch on many of the streaming service's watch lists — as in, "Trending Now Like John Stamos." The centerpiece project is titled John Stamos: A Human, Being.

Drop the Mic; Say 'Oops!'

"Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year," says Google's Gmail team, after its Mic Drop tool was blamed for causing confusion, embarrassment and possibly lost work. The feature, which reportedly lived a short and active life on the company's Gmail service, let users attach an image of a Despicable Me minion character dropping a microphone — and then cut off any follow-up mails in the conversation.

Put A Parachute On It

Google is earning better marks for its Google Express Parachute service, which was shown revolutionizing the delivery industry by using drones and parachutes to deliver a host of unlikely items, from a flaming birthday cake to an ax. (See the "reveal" video at the top of this post.)

Hot Action At Cornhub

In a move that we confess to not anticipating, the adult website Pornhub pranked itself by "cornifying" its landing page, which it renamed "Cornhub" and adorned with scenes of steaming corn. We'll warn you, the site still has the explicit videos and images its users expect: The corn effect disappears rather emphatically upon the first click. So if you want to see only a version of the page that features videos with titles such as "Full cobs totally peeled" and "Got caught husking on the porch," look but do not touch.

For April Fools' Day, the adult website Pornhub adopted a new name — Cornhub — and changed its approach to content.
Pornhub / Screen grab by NPR
Screen grab by NPR
For April Fools' Day, the adult website Pornhub adopted a new name — Cornhub — and changed its approach to content.

Trader Joe's Panic

Yahoo set off fears and prompted a response from Trader Joe's after publishing a hoax story about the oft-cherished grocer shutting all its stores and closing down its line of signature products. One problem with the story? It was published on March 31. Only after scrolling to the bottom of the story did readers learn it wasn't serious. Yahoo seems to have pulled the story; here's the cached version.

Tennis On The Boards

The Australian Open is playing coy about its new announcement — that for the 2017 iteration of the annual tournament, players will compete on hardwood courts. In a video about the change, the Open says that the new surface represents a new innovation. "We're onto something," says Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.

Blast From The Past

Of course, even in the information age, the truthiness of all these stories can still elude many of us. For instance, see NPR's Facebook post titled "Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.