Yesterday was, of course, April Fool’s Day and the internet has created a rich environment for all sorts of April Fool’s pranks.

After all, there are limitless ways you can trick, deceive and amuse
online, making internet users a juicy target for April Fool’s Day.

Usual suspects like Google were up to their typical pranks. Bloggers couldn’t resist. And plenty of websites, both large and small, had to get in on the fun too. Even traditional media got into the act with The Guardian announcing an all-new Twitter-only format.

I’d like to think of myself as a lighthearted guy with a good sense of humor but as I came across April Fool’s prank upon April Fool’s prank yesterday, I couldn’t help but think: enough already!

The Los Angeles Times correctly declared April Fool’s Day dead:

In order for April Fools’ Day to work, a lot of people have to forget it’s April Fools’ Day — at least for the first few hours.  But nowadays, you can forget forgetting. The moment you fire up a Web browser in the morning, you’re barraged by a dozen silly pranks from every node; it’s like a roomful of comedians all competing for a laugh.

Unfortunately we’re not dealing with comedians here. At least good ones. Many of the pranks were so obvious and over-the-top that they weren’t funny; others were just downright irritating. And some completely lacked taste altogether.

Take for example document internet startup SlideShare, which sent out an email to users telling them that their slideshows have been getting lots of traffic and asking them to tweet about it. Sure enough, plenty of them took the bait.

The reaction once it was learned that SlideShare was pranking: not good. Of course, there was really nothing humorous about SlideShare’s April Fool’s joke in the first place; it was the equivalent of a joke without a punch line.

Personally, I think that can be said for most of the April Fool’s pranks I came across yesterday. Which raises the question: what are all of these companies thinking? Why do they feel the need to participate in the April Fool’s revelry when they tend to annoy more than amuse?

I’m a huge believer that companies should treat their customers as their most valuable assets. Online, that means respecting users and providing a good user experience. Yet yesterday we were reminded that a lot of companies are willing to bend those rules in failed attempts at being funny.

Obviously, most of us enjoy dealing with companies that have a human touch; nobody wants to deal with corporate ‘robots‘. Humor is preferable to hubris. But there are limits.

Turning your interface upside down? Annoying. Sending a phony email to your users? A violation of trust. Fake announcements? Not all that harmful, but not funny 9 times out of 10.

So for all the companies that earned a big ‘fail‘ yesterday, here’s a message: the joke is on you.

You’ve fooled yourselves into believing that you’re funny and that the rest of us have nothing better to do on April 1. You’re not and we do. Please leave humor to the professionals and continue to provide the services we’ve come to love. That will earn you more smiles than launching the world’s first Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity (CADIE).

Photo credit: sergis blog via Flickr.