Why Is Google Called Topeka?

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The easy answer: It's April Fool's Day and Google pulls "pranks" like this every year. On April 1, 2005 Google unveiled "Google Gulp" a fictitious sports drink that promised to "maximize your surfing efficiency." In 2006 they launched "Google Romance" a pretend online dating site featuring Soulmate Search™.

The back story of this year's prank begins with Google's promise to build a lightning-fast broadband network in one or more American cities. When the mayor of Topeka, Kansas caught wind of this, he signed a proclamation changing the city's name to Google, Kansas in an effort to propitiate the search giant. Google's reciprocal name-swap appears to be a playful acknowledgment of the town's efforts.

The bigger question now: Does this mean Topeka, Kansas is going to win Google's broadband sweepstakes? Our former colleague Carl Franzen's hunch is yes. He argued that to deprive Topeka of the prize now would amount to merciless teasing.

However, our competing theory posits that Google executives already know Topeka isn't getting the network. Not wanting to leave the city completely jilted after such blatant pandering, Google's giving the town an April Fool's consolation prize. But hey, it's anyone's guess.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.