Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2008 Issue

Online Scratch and Sniff: Google Offers Some Unbelievable Features…For A Day

Googlescratch

Google Books "offers" online scratch and sniff.


By Michael Stillman

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Google had added a wonderful new feature to my Gmail account. It seemed too good to be true. They were offering a service that would backdate my emails. So, let's say you were supposed to send a report to your boss this morning, but it took until afternoon to complete. No problem. Just date the email 9:00 a.m. and send it off. The boss will think you sent it on time, but that the message got stuck on a server somewhere for a few hours. That happens all the time. Not your fault.

Of course, this could be used for personal errors as well, such as a missed birthday. "Forget your finance reports. Forget your anniversary. We'll make it look like you remembered," promised Google. They even offered to make it look like the recipient had actually looked at the email, presumably by changing the bold lettering of a new message to the dimmer one of a message that has already been read. However, aware of the wholesale dishonesty, and lack of believability in time stamps this would create, Google set a limit of ten backdated emails per year.

Even with this limitation, it was hard to comprehend Google taking part in such dishonesty. Could the "do no evil" company participate in such wholesale fraud? Well, as I said, it seemed too good to be true, and you know what it means when something seems too good to be true. After a few moments, I remembered the date: April 1. It is good to know that even as the behemoth is crushing all comers in the world of internet search, and perhaps internet everything else, Google still has a sense of humor. I suspect Microsoft isn't laughing.

This wasn't the only Google joke played on us for April Fools. For those of us involved with books, Google had an even more amazing new feature, one involving an internet technology I doubt even Google could master. Within Google Books, on certain titles, they were offering "scratch and sniff." Over the internet? How do you do that? Click on the thumbnail image at the top of this page to see how. As Google explained in the box that appeared with certain books, "To use scratch and sniff, please place your nose near the monitor and click "Go.""

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