Ah, it’s that time of year again: when the unsuspecting are caught unawares by the unstoppable forces of time. April Fool’s has become a time-honored tradition for those in tech, a time for everyone to flex their humor muscles and devise sometimes silly, sometimes outlandish, and sometimes very believable news stories and announcements.
The best April Fool’s jokes fall just inside the realm of the believable. In order to fulfill their purpose, they must play upon the audience’s expectations. Today, we here at TechNode decided to run our own April Fool’s story about something believable and relevant: two of China’s largest bike-rental companies merging. However, we were not as original as we thought. Turns out that iFeng Tech not only beat us to the punch (in Chinese), but they also did a much better job of crafting a believable story! It was so believable, in fact, that many Chinese language news portals picked up on it and, it would seem, actually believed it even though at the bottom, it says “愚人节快乐!” (“Happy April Fool’s Day” in English).
Perhaps because of the title (“Mobike, ofo in talks to merge; Tencent biggest winner”), perhaps because of the seriousness of the article, ofo was decidedly displeased. When asked by a reporter for our sister site TechNode Chinese for comment, a spokesperson for ofo said (my translation):
“In response to iFeng’s irresponsible behavior, ofo is asking that they stop publishing false stories, apologize, and recognize their responsibility to seriously report the news. In addition, we hope that other media will not reprint this story or other related information. Ofo retains the right to resort to legal means.”
When asked for comment by TechNode English, a spokesperson for Mobike said that TechNode was the first media, Chinese or international, to ask them about this. They also pointed out that it was obviously a joke.
The different responses from China’s largest O2O bike-rental companies have left many wondering what was going on internally to trigger this knee-jerk reaction from ofo. Needless to say, both Chinese media and tech companies will be on their guard next year.