In a move that will upset precisely nobody, Microsoft won’t be making any elaborate April Fools Day pranks this year.
The Verge got hold of an internal memo from Microsoft’s chief marketing officer Chris Capossela in which he encourages staff not to engage in any forced wackiness with public “stunts” on the day arguing that “we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day.”
The reason is pretty clear: while conceding that the pranks can be “amusing,” Capossela believes that “the headwinds the tech industry is facing today” make any such antics a risky gamble. “Data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles,” he wrote.
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There are two ways of interpreting this. The first is the quite literal backfire, which the tech industry isn’t immune from. You may remember Google having to apologise for its Despicable Me Gmail prank, where you could easily pop a mic-dropping minion and mute a thread. A little too easily it turned out, hence the apology when it turned out people had been using it by mistake, alienating people and missing crucial emails.
The other possibility is the general sense of introspection that the tech world is facing thanks to the fake news crisis, which may be what Capossela is referring to when he talks about “the headwinds the tech industry is facing.” While April Fool’s Day may have once been a harmless tradition, in this climate it’s all too possible for the ridiculous to be taken at face value, and for the limited trust people have in news sources to be hit harder by deliberate fake news, no matter how absurd.
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In short, it’s just not worth the risk. And as long as the memo reaches all teams, we won’t be seeing a repeat of 2015’s efforts, where Microsoft ported MS-DOS to Windows Phone.
Will you miss Microsoft’s pranks, or are they better off staying clear? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.