Google changes name to Topeka in April Fools joke

Visitors to Google's search page surely noticed on Thursday the company had apparently changed its name to Topeka.

But Google fans, rest assured: it's only the search giant's latest April Fools joke, and something of a wonky one at that.

The quip stems from Google's decision this year to launch a high-speed broadband testbed, capable of transferring information online at speeds perhaps up to 100 megabits per second.

Competition to partner with Google on that project has been fierce, as cities across the country see the testbed program as a way to stimulate their local economies. It has led some mayors to take drastic steps to stand out.

Among them is Topeka, Kansas Mayor Bill Bunten, who led his city's charge last month to rename the locale "Google, Kansas."

It surely got Google's attention, it seems, which wrote in a blog post on Thursday that it felt compelled to "honor that moving gesture." Its solution: change its name, too, to Topeka.

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

There's more to Google's post, including a surprisingly comprehensive history of Topeka and a section on how to and how not to use the company's new name (i.e.: "Before our blind date, I did a Topeka search on him" beats "Before our blind date, I topeka'd him with AltaVista," Google notes).

But for those who stuck it out to the end, the important gem is in the last line: Google's joke in no way indicates whether Topeka will win its much-coveted broadband testbed contract.

"Finally, we want to be clear that this initiative is a one-shot deal that will have no bearing on which municipalities are chosen to participate in our experimental ultra-high-speed broadband project, to which Google, Kansas has been just one of many communities to apply," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.