Anybody could have told you that Google’s email prank today was going to go wrong. How Google itself didn’t see it coming is kind of amazing and mind-boggling.
Let’s back up. Gmail’s prank seems pretty simple on the surface. The company introduced a Mic Drop button into Gmail, which added a GIF of a Minion to any email.
That’s fine. Cute, even. But the prank, as Google soon learned, made a lot of assumptions about user behavior, and as any designer or developer will tell you: Good design should assume that the user is an idiot.
The move turned disastrous after users interpreted the Mic Drop button to be the normal Send button; it was even placed right next to the normal button. Users, many of whom use email in a capacity other than sending funny GIFs to each other, accidentally sent a Minions GIF to unintended recipients.
Users complaining on Google’s support system allegedly lost jobs or job opportunities. One user wrote:
This mic drop is perhaps the most stupid thing you could possibly come up with. I have been interviewing with this company for 3 months now and mistakenly sent the email directly to guess who? The HR! Why would you do that? I so want this job; was due to start on Monday!
On top of that, the feature apparently permanently muted any email thread, keeping new messages out of the inbox. This keeps within the spirit of a mic drop, but is terrible functionality.
The feature was introduced to users in a pop-up bubble when users first loaded up a new compose window. But it only appeared that once, meaning that if someone missed the notice about what the button actually did, they would never be notified again. On top of that, the iconography is not great. If I didn’t know what a mic drop was (and I’d wager that most Gmail users don’t) then I’d have no clue what this button means. But it also says “Send,” so people used it anyway.
Google quickly pulled the feature after user outcry, saying:
Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.
I guess that means that the Minions accomplished their job, sowing chaos and discord across cyberspace.