Pierce Spencer, a high school freshman, at his home in Atlanta in 2004, signs onto Gmail. (Erik S. Lesser/The Washington Post)

April 1, 2004 It’s hard to believe, but when Google launched Gmail 13 years ago, people weren’t sure whether it was a joke. Google had by then established a tradition of April Fools’ Day pranks, such as the MentalPlex hoax of 2000, which tried to sucker people into mentally projecting what they wanted to search for onto a spinning wheel. A brief report in
The Washington Post announcing the arrival of Gmail touted the fact that it would come with a whopping 1 gigabyte of free storage, “more than 100 times what some popular rivals offer.” (Gmail now offers 15 GB, and Yahoo offers 1 terabyte.) But the caveat that still creeps many people out to this day was that “to finance the service, Google will display advertising links tied to the topics discussed within the e-mails.” The actual April Fools’ Day prank that year was an announcement that Google was looking to fill positions at the Copernicus Center, a “lunar hosting and research center.”

Annys Shin