You've been had. Some geeky guy with a bad comb-over just convinced you to click 100 times on your Gmail account to somehow tap into a Google TV beta.
Like any good internet hoax, the guys who made the Google TV spoof knew that a sucker is born every minute - or maybe that's every second in internet time. It had all the hallmarks of a good con - a product or service that is hard to obtain yet highly desirable, a brand name that people trust, a quirky geek who seemed oblivious to the fact that he looks like the long-lost nephew of Bill Gates, and a viral video format.
Don’t worry, I fell for it too.
Over the past year or so, several cons have appeared, some in video form,and a few blog hoaxes. In some ways, it's a disturbing trend because the internet doesn't need more inaccurate information to go along with the erroneous Wikipedia entries and opinionated blog postings.
There are plenty of older hoaxes that have received more than their share of publicity, but here are my top six recent ones. If I've missed your favourite internet hoax, be sure to let us know in the comments at the end of this story.
Google TV was one of the best pranks of recent memory. So good in fact, we hate to even spoil it here. Mark Erickson is the geeky tech who explains how to tap into the Google TV beta. A few keen observers noted his wry smirk throughout the video, but the hoax had one other classic con element. It was so complicated and unusual that it seemed more real. You had to follow several detailed instructions and eventually click on the Gmail logo repeatedly until the Google TV beta link appeared.
Once subscribed, you could watch endless episodes of Prison Break without paying a dime, which is yet another incentive. What made this hoax even more interesting is that it spurred so many other related hoaxes, such as viewers showing how they made it work.
Two spaceships fly overhead in an ominous shakycam video. Like the monster movie Cloverfield, the Haiti spaceship video was a good con because the special effects looked realistic enough, but not so realistic that they looked like a Hollywood production.
The Los Angeles Times outed the French special effects guru who created the video, although 'Barzolff' (as they nicknamed him) was surprised by the intense reaction.
Interestingly, the video is actually a precursor to a full movie about how two guys make an internet hoax about UFOs and get into trouble for it.
NEXT PAGE: More superb internet hoaxes including the Metalosis Maligna documentary and fake Steve Jobs
The internet has long been a hoaxer's dream. We round-up six of the most recent and more elaborate hoaxes with one thing in common - they worked and they fooled plenty of people.
Once again, excellent special effects and a serious tone are sure to trick even savvy viewers. Slightly old now as the video was released over a year ago, the Metalosis Maligna documentary works on many levels. It holds the interests of techies, preys on our fear of technology and looks strikingly real.
Metalosis was described as "a disease which affects patients with medical implants". A pan-shot over various body implant parts and a low rumbling soundtrack just add to the potential for public hysteria. Like the Google TV hoax, the con also plays on our desire to learn about something new and under-reported, to be ‘in the know’ before the next guy.
The film uses well-designed graphics and interviews with seemingly knowledgeable experts and mirrors the documentary style of Michael Moore and others. A matching website at Metalosis.com, complete with Google ads and links to more information, carries the ruse even further.
Fake Steve Lawsuit
Fake Steve Jobs pulled a fake-lawsuit ploy just before the holiday break last year. A hoax within a hoax, that's a particularly dastardly con.
Fake Steve Jobs is a blog written by Daniel Lyons pretending to be Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and one of the best-known hoax sites around. Just before the Christmas holidays, the blog suddenly switched gears. Lyons seemed to break out of character, posting as himself to explain how he was being sued by Apple for disclosing private company information, and forum posts took on a increasingly empathetic tone on his behalf.
One of the reasons this hoax worked had to do with the timing. As tech workers were getting ready to pull their chairs back from their workstations for a long needed break, they clicked into a seemingly nefarious scandal. It worked because we partly want to see a rumble, and partly because we just can't stop reading blogs. When I met Lyons at CES this year, he said Apple would never sue him in a million years. I suspect the company will eventually ask him to stop impersonating its CEO.
Czech Nuclear Bomb
The explosion itself doesn't look realistic, but the ‘lower third’ (video titles to you and me) are convincing. Nuclear bombs aren't even remotely funny, but this hoax had a few unique attributes beyond a mildly well-done fake nuclear explosion. Hackers broke into a Czech weather station and transmitted what looked like a live video feed of the bomb exploding as the camera pans back and forth.
The transmission was then uploaded to YouTube.com, where it suddenly went viral, mostly on blog sites, since YouTube users pretty much debunked it right away. The hackers, who were participating in an art experiment, now face up to three years in prison for the stunt.
NEXT PAGE: Our final internet hoax involves making a bottle of Mountain Dew and some common household chemicals
The internet is an excellent tool for wannabe hoaxers, with hundreds of surfers just dying to be in the know about a product, service or in some cases disease before everyone else. We look at some of the most recent internet hoaxes that have proved very successful by fooling millions of us.
Glowing Mountain Dew
Light up a bottle of Mountain Dew with household chemicals! Yeah, right.
Similar to the Google TV hoax, this is an instructional video, which supposedly allows you to use household chemicals to make a bottle of Mountain Dew glow like a neon torch. It's a little to simplistic to actually be true, just pour in the ingredients and watch the exciting results! But it plays on the Mentos-and-Diet Coke fountain trick that actually works.
It also borrows from the idea in Google TV - if it's something people really want to do, they will suspend their disbelief. Clever video editing tricks, just like the Google TV spoof, help to make you think the concoction actually works.