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Have You Topeka’ed Yourself Lately?

04/01/2010
When is Google not Google? When it decides to honor a city that changed its name to Google all in the name of getting better Internet access for residents.

Today `Google' is Topeka and as its April Fool's Day logo and related article explains, the decision didn't happen without serious thought, according to Google's blog:

"We didn't reach this decision lightly; after all, we had a fair amount of brand equity tied up in our old name. But the more we surfed around (the former) Topeka's municipal website, the more kinship we felt with this fine city at the edge of the Great Plains."

The move was a natural one, says Google, given the historic similarity between the city's origins and the search giant's early days.

For 150 years, Google points out, Topeka has been the key jumping off point to the new world in the West.

"Just as for 150 months the company formerly known as Google has been a key jumping-off point to the new world of the web. When in 1858 a crucial bridge built across the Kansas River was destroyed by flooding mere months later, it was promptly rebuilt - and we too are accustomed to releasing 2.0 versions of software after stormy feedback on our `beta' releases."

And as Google typically does with any special home page logo, it strived to educate Google users about Topeka's rich history, political parlance and famous residents such as Alfred E. Neuman, whom Google says is arguably the most influential figure to an entire generation of Americans.

"We couldn't be happier to add our own chapter to this storied history," states Google's blog.

Maybe the funniest bit in the April Fool silliness is Google's note about the tricky issue of breaking the news to Oliver Google Kai's parents.

"We don't really know what to tell Oliver Google Kai's parents, except that, if you ask us, Oliver Topeka Kai would be a charming name for their little boy."

And on a politically astute and objective note, Google makes it clear that becoming `Topeka' doesn't mean Google, Kansas will become a recipient of it soon-to-come ultra-high speed broadband effort.

"Kansas has been just one of many communities to apply," notes Google.

It was back on March 2 when the city, in one of the more public displays to get on then-Google's radar for the broadband project list,  announced it was changing its name to Google.

Today's name-changing joke is just the latest in Google April Fools Pranks. In 2000 it debuted "mentalPlex," a Google search of brainwaves, and then there was a page rank system using pigeons and jobs available on the moon at the Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.).

In 2006 Google Romance offered up a "contextual dating" service and then of course there was the infamous TiSP (the Toilet Internet Service Provider) that required users to use a "round-front or elongated toilet providing at least 1.0 gallons per flush."

Here's the classic explanation on why TiSP was still in beta at the time: "Why is TiSP in beta? When things go wrong with TiSP, they go very, very wrong. Let's leave it at that."

Deadline for submitting requests for the search titan's Fiber for Communities effort was last week and Google plans to announce its target community (or communities) by end of the year. Hundreds of communities and hundreds of thousands of individuals have made a plea, according to Topeka/Google.

"We're not going to be able to build in every interested community - our plan is to reach a total of at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people, but we hope to learn lessons from this experiment that will help improve Internet access everywhere," states the blog.

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