I think by now almost everyone using the site has already seen the fake "90's style" redesign that was created as an April Fool joke.

Many words were already spent discussing about it. From people stating it was poorly tested to people arguing that we should only prank logged-in users to people asking why it was activated by default and asking the staff to avoid such intrusive pranks in the future... so please apologize if this seems just another drop in an unneeded discussion and bear with me while I explain my point.

I won't hide it - when I first saw the joke I wasn't really enthusiast about it. For some reason something seemed out of place, but I couldn't really focus. That is, until someone on the chat pointed me in the right direction.

I get what the intended joke was: "Look at how bad sites looked in the '90s, when we didn't have the tool to build anything better than this." But I get the joke only because they explained it to me. Looking at the actual content of the restyle alone, I don't see much that seems to indicate that is a parody of how we had to code when we lacked better tools and web technologies weren't as advanced as now. What I see is just a site full of pink, glitter and unicorns.

... And what is wrong I can hear you saying? After all Stack love for unicorn-based memes is a know fact...

The problem is that right now the design doesn't look a parody of the '90s, not just an innocent parody of a time period. To my eyes it come out more of a joke at "someone with just enough knowledge of DHTML to be dangerous": so, instead of joking about the past, we are now apparently making fun of real people who still exist today. The "monster" as it was called does not appear like a anachronistic out-of-place reminder from a forgotten past - instead it just look like an enthusiastic amateur first discovering the joy of web design. And apparently that's something to be ashamed of (and to be fair personally I think that the specific design choices - glittering text, sparking cursor, unicorns and pinkish colors seems specifically aimed at making fun of younger female amateur programmers).

That comes out as wrong (again, I am sure that this wasn't intended. It just comes out this way). Are we laughing at people because they know less stuff than us? Because they are less professional than us?

Maybe I am overthinking it. Maybe I am just looking at the half-empty glass. Maybe it is just a light-hearted April Fool prank and I shouldn't be discussing it seriously but it kinda feels like I have to.
So here I am, asking. Did anyone felt the same, or I am just giving too much importance to what was only a simple joke? Do we really want to give out the message that you should be ashamed if you aren't skilled enough?

  • 19
    I took it as a light hearted April Fool prank, and I enjoyed it very much. People on Twitter seem to love it, too. To me it was just a nostalic joke about how webpages used to look like (and I'd like the option to keep it ;))
    – user204841
    Apr 1, 2019 at 13:18
  • 2
    I know, @ModusTollens - I am sure that it was intended as a light heated April Fool prank. It is just the actual execution of the joke that seems a little off to me. As I said, I am not accusing anyone here - I just wanted to post this as food for thought since after speaking with other users in the chat some seemed to feel the same.
    – SPArcheon
    Apr 1, 2019 at 13:22
  • 26
    I believe we have grown too touchy on Stack Overflow - it is just an Aprils Fools joke and should be taken as such. We have far bigger problems as a community, I don't see the reason to blow everything out of proportion. But I might be wrong :)
    – user204841
    Apr 1, 2019 at 13:25
  • 7
    Remember that just because you don't like something doesn't mean it's bad or unwelcoming. Apr 2, 2019 at 2:14

4 Answers 4


We are to some degree joking about technology and we're also to some degree joking about people, but...maybe not the people you think we are joking about.

We are joking about all of us, but neither about our skills but about our experience (or lack thereof) with a new and emerging technology and our naiveté towards it, and maybe our young selves' aesthetic perception.

This design isn't poking fun at people's programming skills, let alone nowadays' people (but not the 90s people's either really). It's making fun of a time period's and young generation of internet enthusiasts' naiveté and (in retrospective) bad aesthetic taste towards this new technology called internet that is now the (aesthetically) neat, clean-swiped and usable commonplace we have, but hasn't always been. But this naiveté and lack of experience isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially in retrospective.

If you're actually not skilled enough today, you still wouldn't design a web-page like this. And even if you were an up-and-coming programming genius, you might still have ended up doing stuff like this in the 90s. Most of us were, which is precisely the point. This design (and the general ugly 90s design it parodies) has nothing to do with skill per se. It's directed at the current generation that "owns" the internet and that grew up with exactly the stuff this joke pokes fun at. Maybe the people at SE overestimated the age of this target audience, though, that's certainly not impossible.

So, frankly, yes, you are misinterpreting this and blowing a harmless joke out of proportion. I could maybe somewhat see the point in the complaints of it not being totally bug-free and allegedly seriously hindering the productivity people have become entitled to expect from Stack Overflow for just one day. But bringing "welcoming" considerations into this is posing a level of controversy onto this harmless joke that seems entirely injustified.


I don't see much that seems to indicate that is a parody of how we had to code when we lacked better tools and web technologies weren't as advanced as now. What I see is just a site full of pink, glitter and unicorns.

Yes it is. It's a mockery of over-designed, garish looks, and bad ideas (lots of moving stuff, particle effects following the mouse, etc). These were all common tropes in website design, and they didn't really have anything to do with the technology so much as just bad ideas.

So, the question is this: is mocking bad ideas "unwelcoming"? It has been said that humor = tragedy + time. It's been 20 years; I think it's reasonable to think any people who genuinely thought these were good ideas have grown up enough to be able to look back and say "wow, that was garbage." Just like we can look back on our childhood ideas and say "what was I thinking with that?"

So no, I would say that it's not "unwelcoming".

  • 1
    I feel you are only thinking about how the people who made the bad sites of the 90s have had enough time to laugh at their mistakes. But for those of us with ADHD, autism, or other conditions that make this year's April fools prank truly horrendous, it's not a matter of time, it's a matter of acute pain, and it still does that just like it did in the 90s.
    – Ed Grimm
    Apr 2, 2019 at 2:45
  • 4
    @EdGrimm: "I feel you are only thinking about how the people who made the bad sites of the 90s" Well... yes. That was the subject of the question, after all: is it insulting to the makers of sites like these to parody them in such a way? The subject was never about whether it is welcoming to people who find such garishness "truly horrendous" or "acutely painful" or whatever. I'm not saying your question is unimportant; I'm saying it's not the subject under discussion. Apr 2, 2019 at 2:59
  • @EdGrimm FWIW, I'm one of the people that gets sensory overload from the april fools prank. I just turned it off first thing whenever I loaded a question, and the SE dark theme helps mute some of it's excesses, but there's a point there. Normal SE is carefully crafted to not induce that.
    – Magisch
    Apr 4, 2019 at 7:19
  • @Magisch different people are different; there are people who have it worse than me. Yeah, I turned it off as soon as possible, too, but that still meant in excess of 15 minutes of headache for me. I first experienced this thing on InterPersonal SE, which is normally a fairly safe place. But, of course, the SE is the kicker there because most of this site is run by people who think that "better than average" is good enough... and that causing probably hundreds of people significant pain is really funny.
    – Ed Grimm
    Apr 5, 2019 at 1:49

Everyone's going to have a different reaction to this joke.

If you feel it's a joke at the people who created sites like this, that's unfortunate and not intended at all. For that, I apologise.

As someone who consumed a lot of these pages as a teenager, I can see where you're coming from but as someone who had Somewhere Over the Rainbow By IZ autoplaying on my obnoxious green MySpace page, I like to think I (and others) can laugh at that part of our lives.

To some people, this was good - great - design! We loved it. How much of this we could shove on our pages and inflict on people was part of the fun and various website providers like GeoCities and Angelfire helped to facilitate it. That fun is what this design is intended to evoke... Compare either of those standards to the very clean, professional... and maybe even kinda boring... designs created on platforms like SquareSpace or Wix and I wonder if we didn't go a bit too far in stamping out the fun on the internet in an attempt to take it too seriously.

The question is whether it is pure nostalgia or an attack on the designers of the time - I like to think it's the former. I love the cursor effect so much I seriously want to keep it... the gradient in the left nav slowly changing through the rainbow from purple to blue to green, etc... is actually really subtle and pretty.

Yes, there's a lot to laugh at here but there's also a lot to appreciate. One at a time, the various elements may be beautiful but the joy for many is in the wonderful excess of having so many elements shoved into one page.

I'm sure that some won't share my appreciation but I've kept the view for the 48 hours it's lasting, comic sans and all. I hope that this can help you see that this was done with love, not any attempt to target anyone.

  • 1
    As I have stated, Catija, I am not angry at anyone. I know what you were trying to do with this joke. I know that was not ill-intended. But I wanted to make people realize this can be hurtful to some people. I wanted to make people realize that this design actually can and is "hurting" people. I knew this was going to be downvoted and quickly dismissed as rant or even worse as trying to find a pretest to blame SE, but I sincerely don't care about the lost rep if this message reaches someone.
    – SPArcheon
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:23
  • Also, please have a look at how Honda did the same but in that case it was much more clearer that it was about tech and not the people who made it.
    – SPArcheon
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:24
  • 2
    @SPArchaeologist I'd argue that your example has just as many pitfalls... how do you think people who still rely on the things used in that commercial feel when their use of those things is mocked as being dated... what's "90s" about coin holders? My 2017 car still has them and I use them... So, I guess I just have to suck it up that I'm being mocked for that? Of course! and that's OK... because it's a joke and no harm is intended... I'm not being mocked any more than someone who still uses CD keepers (also me) or a pager (many medical professionals) is.
    – Catija
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:38
  • Interesting counterpoint. I can't agree it feels the same imho, but I will still respect that viewpoint. Anyway, I knew that example also had its flaw, that's why I didn't include it the original post I made but only mentioned it as I was discussing with you here. I kinda wanted to see what you would say about it since your reply to me seemed different among the others ones posted.
    – SPArcheon
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:45
  • Anyway, let me make just a little final request. Try to look a little in the chat, you may find others that were annoyed or sad about this joke
    – SPArcheon
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:47
  • 2
    I do understand where you're coming from. I don't think that any company goes into an event like this thinking "everyone will love this"... we hope that people will see "this comes from a place of love, we're not mocking the people who did this... we did this ourselves and are laughing at what this site might have looked like if our younger selves had been working here 20 years ago."
    – Catija
    Apr 1, 2019 at 14:47
  • 6
    "I am not angry at anyone. ... But I wanted to make people realize this can be hurtful to some people." So is this one of those, "I'm not offended, but other people might be, so I'm taking offense for them" kind of deals, @SPArchaeologist? I genuinely do not understand what people this is "hurting", as you claim, and why. Where is the offense part? Apr 1, 2019 at 21:51
  • 1
    What about those people for whom the 90s web overdesigns were physically painful? My backlight was already set to 20%, so it wasn't as bad as it could've been, but I'm not joking when I complain about my poor eyes.
    – Ed Grimm
    Apr 2, 2019 at 2:50

Yes, we're mocking people. We're mocking all of us, who designed, operated or just used websites of that garish design.

Haven't you ever been to a 1970's costume party? 90s webdesign is the 70s of the Internet. :-)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .