Although the link between the first of April and foolishness was originally made in 1392 by Geoffrey Chaucer in his epic tome Canterbury Tales, pranking people on April Fools Day didn't really become popular until the 1800s.
Many countries have their own traditions of celebrating the day of fools, but in recent years it has become common for the media and large businesses to prank the general public. It can be quite a sport reading the papers on April 1st and trying to determine what is real and what is an elaborate prank.
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, Image Copyright holder: British Broadcasting Corporation
One of the most famous pranks was conducted by the BBC in 1957 when they broadcast a segment about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. Keeping in mind that spaghetti was still considered an exotic food in the 1950s, the black and white television segment showed workers carefully collecting strands of spaghetti from their tree. It caused an immediate demand in England for the importation of spaghetti trees and still remains one of the most popular hoaxes of all time.
Almost twenty years later, the BBC radio followed with a hoax led by astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. He announced that due to a very rare alignment of the planets, Earth's gravity would temporarily be reduced so if you jumped in the air at a precise time, you would be able to float. There were a lot of callers to the radio station later saying that they had been able to float, including one gentleman who wanted compensation after hitting his head on the ceiling.
In 2009, the Guardian newspaper in England announced it would be the first paper to deliver all its news via Twitter, and would re-release its entire archive of stories in the 140 character format. As such, the announcement of JFKs assignation would become "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"
Google has pulled a number of their own pranks over the year, such as offering Google Translate for Animals - new pet translator technology, so people can finally understand what their pets are saying, and Google Tap, where people can type their emails using Morse code.
The Taco Bell hoax, Copyright Taco Bell
In 1996, US chain Taco Bell announced it was going to help solve the problem of national debt by purchasing the Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell, while two years later Burger King announced it would be selling a left-handed Whopper with all the condiments rotated 180 degrees to help left handers eat their burger more easily.
Here in Australia, some of the best hoaxes have caught the national attention such as in 1978 when entrepreneur Dick Smith said he was going to float an enormous iceberg all the way from Antarctica into Sydney Harbour and then chop it up and sell the pure ice as 'Dicksicles', guaranteed to improve the flavour of any drink. The fact that the 'iceberg' turned out to be shaving cream, fire retardant foam and a bunch of plastic sheets and the ice cubes came from a beer fridge onboard didn't stop a flotilla of boats following the iceberg into the harbour.