Microsoft puts a stop to April Fools’ Day pranks


MS-DOS mobile
A previous Microsoft prank resurrected MS-DOS on mobile.
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft has banned employees from participating in April Fools’ Day pranks.

The stunts “have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles,” an internal memo explains. This comes just days after Microsoft resurrected Clippy, the famous Office assistant, only to remove it a day later.

Lots of tech companies large and small embrace April Fools’ Day. None more so than Google, which executes some of the biggest pranks every year. Microsoft has been known to join in on the fun, too, but this year it will be taking a leaf out of Apple’s book.

We won’t be seeing any April 1 stunts from the Windows giant.

Microsoft says no to April Fools’ Day

Microsoft’s marketing chief Chris Capossela has asked all teams at Microsoft to restrain from participating in April Fools’ Day stunts.

“It’s that time of the year when tech companies try to show their creativity with April Fools’ Day stunts. Sometimes the outcomes are amusing and sometimes they’re not,” he writes in an internal memo, seen by The Verge.

“Their way, data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.”

‘We have more to lose than gain’

“Considering the headwinds the tech industry is facing today, I’m asking all teams at Microsoft to not do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts,” Capossela continues. “I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day.”

Capossela asks recipients to pass the message onto their teams and internal partners to “ensure people are aware of the ask to stand down on external April Fools’ Day activities.”

Previous pranks from Microsoft have included a version of MS-DOS for mobile, and insults aimed at Google. But it’s easy to see why the company wants to distance itself from the jokes. April Fools’ Day stunts have been known to backfire in the past.

Google went too far

Google had to publicly apologize to users after a prank when wrong in 2016.

Its Gmail team thought it might be a good idea to add a “Mic Drop” button to its email app. It automatically added a GIF of a Minion from Despicable Me performing a mic drop at the bottom of users’ emails, and made it so that any replies were muted.

Lots of Gmail users were incredibly unhappy about the stunt. One even claimed to have lost their job after accidentally sending a mic drop GIF to their boss and not responding to their replies.

Microsoft has already wiped out one humorous stunt this year. An update rolled out on Tuesday brought its classic Clippy assistant, first introduced in Office 97, back to Microsoft Teams. Clippy then disappeared again just a day later.

One source told The Verge that Microsoft’s “brand police” were behind its swift removal.

How do you feel about April Fools’ pranks from big tech companies? Are they funny, or just a frustrating waste of time?


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