My first couple years on the net I enjoyed the silly things people did on April Fool's Day, but it got old quickly. You put up a fake website or put something on your website you wouldn't normally or you swap websites with someone else, or something under the rubric of "etc". In fact let's classify the whole spectrum of activities as "etc." I end up spending the day in a defensive crouch of skepticism and not enjoying or believing anything. I still like one-on-one AFD pranks, but I'm tired of the kinds of pranks you can pull by publishing HTTP resources to lots of people.
Except, a bunch of great things happened in my net experience today that made me think about a new direction for April 1: as a day to launch new projects that are maybe kind of crazy, but that have some meat to them. My thinking started in this direction on the 31st, when jwz announced he'd gotten the old Netscape corporate site running at its original URL. This was for the previously-mentioned ten-year anniversary of the Netscape source release, not for April Fool's Day, but it had all the good aspects of a traditional Internet AFD joke, without any aggravating deception. It was a cool hack released at an appropriate time.
First cool thing that happened today was that "Mallory" was published. Falsely publishing a story of mine would be a really dumb AFD prank on anyone except me, but I've fallen for "Mallory"-related pranks before, so I had a feeling of relief on realizing it had actually been published. And I realized--I really like this feeling! The feeling that something cool could have been a prank, society would have sanctioned its being a prank, but it was real. Where have you been all these AFDs past, anonymous feeling?
Second cool thing is that Fafblog started publishing again. As I write this the jury's still out on whether posting will continue, whether it was only for this AFD, whether posts will appear on Fafblog only once a year on the Internet's favorite holiday, or what. After doing about five seconds of research my guess is that there will be more Fafblog posts and that they will involve carrots. I'm making an argument here about what would be cool, so the question is actually moot. AFD was a great day to start posting to Fafblog again.
Okay, third thing is that Kris started a new comic today, chainsawsuit (doesn't look like he told the weblog software about the Monday-Wednesday-Friday update schedule). And the comics are really cheap-looking but they're funny and I think Kris occasionally needs to be constrained to doing cheap-looking comics. It's good for him. And why not launch a new cheap-looking comic on AFD?
Fourth thing I don't care as much about, but it fits the theme: Flickr put up their old copy of The Game Neverending, which was the project that resulted in Flickr and then Flickr took over everything and very few people ever saw the game. This was done as part of an AFD joke but according to a reliable source the site will outlive AFD.
See what I mean? AFD is a day where you can pull pranks, yes, but also a day where you can put out interesting work without having to worry about how it ties into what you normally do or how you'll justify it to shareholders. You can make a fresh start of something you abandoned. If you want to do something really infrequently, you can do it every year on April 1st; we're here on the net for the long term.
AFD could be a Carnival, a festival day where no rules apply and you don't know what to expect. And if you're the sort of person who just likes the pranks, this benefits you too. People like me are inured to traditional Internet AFD jokes. If April 1st is the day when some people make fake web pages for fake oddball projects and some people release their actual oddball projects, your audience can't dismiss your prank out of hand.