TOPEKA, Kan. — Want the scoop on what everyone’s talking about at the office?
Why not “Topeka”?
As an April Fools’ gag, Web search giant Google changed its name on its U.S. search page Thursday to “Topeka.” The daylong gesture was a nod to the Kansas capital, which unofficially changed its name to “Google, Kan.” for a month to try to persuade the company to test its planned super-fast fiber optic network there.
Visitors to the company’s home page, www.google.com, were greeted by the name “Topeka” in Google’s familiar multicolor typeface. Below it was a link to a lengthy blog posting by Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt explaining the move.
Topeka, Schmidt said, took its name from the Kansa Indians as “a good place to dig for potatoes” along the banks of the Kansas River.
“We’d like to think that our Web site is one the Web’s best places to dig for information,” Schmidt wrote.
Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten’s office was inundated with calls Thursday.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it. It’s brought attention to our city,” Bunten said. “I appreciate that they received our effort to change the name in good humor and we do the same with their change to Topeka.”
Schmidt said Google users would have to get used to using “Topeka News” and “Topeka Maps” and that Google employees — known affectionately as “Googlers” — would be known as “Topekans.”
Topeka unofficially changed its name for the month of March in the hopes of being chosen as a test site for Google’s planned broadband network. Communities across the country have submitted applications for the project.
Google spokesman Dan Martin was quick to note the name change doesn’t mean Topeka has risen to the top of the list of contenders.
“We continue to evaluate the approximately 1,100 community responses that we’ve received, and still plan to announce our target community or communities by the end of the year,” Martin said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The names will eventually revert back. Topeka will be Topeka and Google will be Google, but Schmidt said there could be some confusion, even for just one day.
Billionaire Richard Branson’s co-venture with Google to launch a permanent colony on Mars would henceforth be known as Project Vireka, a melding of Virgin and Topeka, instead of Project Virgle, Schmidt wrote.