It’s the weekend! Time to wind down, watch some videos, and hide from the heat indoors. We’ve been watching a classic series of deadpan fake instructional videos, Infinite Solutions. These fakes were so good, they fooled Gizmodo back in 2007.
The Infinite Solutions series would eventually be an obvious joke. My personal favourite is their video on finding the skeletons of “tiny dinosaurs”, above. It’s highbrow prop comedy, with several layers of joke building on the premise. Even though I knew there were no real dinosaur bones in that dig site, I still cringed when I watched the host ruthlessly attack the dirt with a pickax.
But before these obvious jokes, Infinite Solutions started with a few fake tech tutorials. The channel’s first video described a fake use for a real application on CNET’s freeware site Download.com. Supposedly, you could use this app to identify the music in your iTunes library and correct the labels.
Judging by the identical error messages pasted in the comments, people actually tried and failed to use this method for years. Now in 2019, I can’t figure out whether this was very subtle, or whether a free music-recognition app was laughably impossible in 2007. Now, of course, there are actual apps that do this.
The video that tricked Gizmodo was called “How to Sign Up for GoogleTV Beta”. It was a more elaborate prank that included footage of a fake GoogleTV interface. Brilliantly, the video tells people to laboriously log in and out of their Gmail accounts several times, hoping to catch an Easter egg that will let them into a preview of GoogleTV (a smart TV platform).
And while then-Gizmodo editor Adam Frucci was sceptical, he tried it out anyway.
Frucci should have recognised the fake. But not because it was silly — Google was known for elaborate tricks such as the one Infinite Solutions described. Three years before, Google had released Gmail with a whopping 1GB of free storage on April 1. You could only join if you had an invite code from someone else, so many people without a code thought the whole thing was fake.
In 2007, Google had recently bought YouTube and Keyhole (which became Google Earth). Google Books still looked like a much bigger deal than it turned out to be. No one knew what Google would come up with next. But it seemed like they might eventually provide free access to all the world’s information, with a few ads inserted.
So GoogleTV wasn’t entirely unthinkable, and hiding early access behind an elaborate copy-paste process was not entirely off-brand for Google. The smoking gun, though, is in the video’s credits: “Special thanks to Fatal Farm.” As Frucci pointed out in a follow-up post, Fatal Farm was already popular for its parodies of old TV opening titles. And they were behind the whole Infinite Solutions series.
It’s unfair to demand that a blogger search every name that shows up in the credits of a YouTube video, but it might have gone faster than logging in and out of a Gmail account 11 times.
Anyway, Frucci posted an update a few days later, admitting he’d fallen for it (though to be fair, he’d been sceptical the whole time), and sharing Fatal Farm’s follow-up video, which doubled down on the hoax:
Before you head off to hunt down whatever frozen treats you have in your freezer, here’s one more brilliant troll from Infinite Solutions: A guide to visiting New York City for just $100. Be sure to tell your taxi driver you want the special tourist rate.