Google becomes Topeka in April spoof

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Internet giant Google turned its mega search engine on its ear Thursday by changing its name to "Topeka" in a huge cyberspace April Fool's joke.

Google said the move was inspired by a Kansas town which in March changed its name to that of the Internet giant as part of a US bidding process to be the test hub for the company's experimental super-fast broadband network.

"Early last month the mayor of Topeka, Kansas stunned the world by announcing that his city was changing its name to Google," Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said in the company blog.

"We've been wondering ever since how best to honor that moving gesture.

"Today we are pleased to announce that as of 1:00 am (central daylight time) April 1st, Google has officially changed our name to Topeka."

Initially it appeared that the change only applied to searches within the United States, as searches initiated elsewhere brought up the normal Google logo.

"We didn't reach this decision lightly; after all, we had a fair amount of brand equity tied up in our old name," Schmidt added.

"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."

While Google's April Fool's Day name change was clearly a joke, the mayor of Topeka, Kansas was deadly serious when he announced his stunning move.

More than 600 communities across the United States are vying to test the project, after the California-based Google promised to build an experimental super-fast broadband Internet network.

Topeka, Kansas, jumped out to an early lead in the wackiness stakes by renaming itself "Google, Kansas - the capital city of fiber optics" for the entire month of March.

Don Ness, the mayor of Duluth, Minnesota, then upped the ante by posting a joke video on YouTube decreeing that first-born males in Duluth will be named "Google Fiber" and first-born females "Googlette Fiber."

Google announced in February that the envisioned one-gigabit-per-second fiber-to-the-home network will be built in "one or more trial locations," serving at least 50,000 people and potentially as many as 500,000.

The winner will be announced later this year.

Schmidt said Thursday in his spoof that correspondence to corporate headquarters and offices around the world "should now be addressed to Topeka Inc.," but otherwise can be addressed normally.

"Google employees once known as 'Googlers' should now be referred to as either 'Topekers' or 'Topekans,' depending on the result of a board meeting that's ongoing at this hour.

"Whatever the outcome, the conclusion is clear: we aren't in Google any more."