News

Google turns tables, changes name to 'Topeka'

Eric Adler
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

When you live in the state known for Toto, tornadoes and Obama's mama, it pays to have a sense of humor.

But Thursday, April Fools' Day, the folks at Google weren't kidding when, to honor the Kansas capital, the company changed its online logo, just for one day, to read ... Topeka.

Yes, worldwide — from Bangor, Maine, to Bangladesh, from Kansas to Kuala Lumpur — anyone who logged on to Google.com saw the name "Topeka" pop up in Google's characteristic blue, red, yellow and green (six letters in both names).

Talk about going global.

Of course, turnaround is fair play. In many ways, Google was just being neighborly in a Midwestern way, like returning a bud case with a bud in it, or a casserole dish with, well, not tuna.

Early last month, Mayor Bill Bunten of Topeka, hoping to lure Google's "Fiber for Communities" project — a technology initiative that, for free, aims to wire several chosen communities with ultra-high-speed broadband Internet, some 100 times faster than what is now available — signed a proclamation changing Topeka's name for the month of March to Google.

All month, if you called up www.topeka.org, the page read "Google" in the upper-left-hand corner. The logo was still there April 1.

"Someone called it a monumental suck-up. Sure. We're not proud," Bunten said.

From Google's official Web site Thursday:

"We've been wondering ever since how best to honor that moving gesture. Today, we are pleased to announce that as of 1 a.m. (Central Daylight Time) April 1, Google has officially changed our name to Topeka."

The Web site went on to talk about Topeka, Kansas' (sorry — Google, Kansas') august history, "gracing the nation with Margaret Hill McCarter, the first woman to address a national political convention (1920, Republican); Charles Curtis, the only Native American to ever serve as vice president ('29 to '33, under Herbert Hoover); Carrie Nation, leader of the old temperance movement (and wielder of American history's most famous hatchet); and most important, Alfred E. Neuman, arguably the most influential figure to an entire generation of Americans."

Neuman is the goofy face of Mad magazine.

The Google Web site also showed the sign outside their Mountain View, Calif., headquarters declaring "Topeka."

Bunten said that Topekans recently did more to attract Google's notice. At a recent hockey game, 500 fans lined up on the ice and spelled Google with their bodies.

For sheer pluck, one Swedish man named his newborn son Oliver Google Kai in 2005.

Google also has an annual tradition of pulling April Fools' Day pranks, once telling users that high-speed Internet could be obtained through their plumbing.

Bunten has no idea if all the horseplay actually increases Topeka's chances of becoming one of several chosen communities. Google plans to announce its decision by the end of the year.

"But we have brought our city a lot of attention," Bunten said. "I think it's just an extension of a good sense of humor that we have and that they have."

Curiously, as of about noon on April 1, Bunten still hadn't logged on to Google.com to see "Topeka" pop up.

"I really haven't taken a look yet," he said. "I had an 8 o'clock meeting."

After that he was deluged with media calls from around the country.

He also said that it was probably time to take the Google name off the official Topeka Web site. It was only supposed to be up there for March.

"We'll probably take it down," he said. "We don't want to try their patience."

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