What is Google trying to tell us?

T.A. Barnhart

As most people know, Google marks holidays and special events with cutesy renditions of its search page logo, usually featuring lil critters unaware of their status as endangered and barbeque potential.  Here is image for New Years Day 2006:


Also on January 1st, the L.A. Times ran a major story on Google and its potential to take over the webiverse and all of the really cool internet cafes in 2006.  Google will, according to the prognosticators who are never wrong about such things which is why they always get quoted anonymously: destroy Microsoft, make pc's obsolete and free humankind from typing and television.  Google, unlike Microsoft (aka Devil's Spawn Soul-enslaver of Doom, except for the billions Bill & Melinda give away but that's a whole other story), is a kind and benevolent organization, more concerned with doing good than doing well (although, on a serious note, Google causes "the Street" some fear:

Some investors worry that [Google co-founder and president of products Larry] Page and co-founder Sergey Brin could be done in by their penchant for seeing themselves as do-gooders rather than profiteers.

Shame on them.  Don't they know we're a capitalist nation?

But the juxtaposition of these two things -- the Google Jan 1 image and their status as the new 800-pound cybergorilla -- has me wondering what's going on.  The image, after all, is clearly aimed at Oregon:  A beaver, the Cascades, and the sun rising behind Mount Hood.  What's the message here?  Why a beaver?  Why the green mountains of Oregon?  Why not bunnies (a Google graphic mainstay) or elk or dolphins or sparrows?  The beaver is an odd choice, not to mention that the ability of beavers to form letters and numbers from twigs has yet to be documented in the wild (much less the classroom). 

I think we can look upon this with hope.  Oregon's economy still sucks.  Whatever recovery there may be is weak and may be washed away with most of the Willamette Valley before the rains end.  But Google has a plan, and it involves Oregon.  This is not an accidental image (George Bush sober on a bicycle in Crawford: that's an accidental image).  This is a quiet message from Larry and Sergey:  "Buck up there, Oregon.  Google has your back.  We'll be dammed (ha ha) if anything bad happens to you.  Just ... trust us."  We must have something they want.  We just need to figure out what the hell that could be.

Unless someone else has a better explanation.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    "The image, after all, is clearly aimed at Oregon: A beaver, the Cascades, and the sun rising behind Mount Hood."

    What makes you think that the sun is behind Mt. Hood. It looks like three peaks to me, and Mt. Hood has only one last time I drove over there. Hmmm, three peaks in Oregon, and the sun behind.

    It must be the Three Sisters and a setting sun!!

    Oh my, what symbolism could that be? Are the founders leaving Google? Is that beaver waving goodbye?

    Oh my!

  • Kitty (unverified)

    Why is the "g" made of twigs upside down?

  • Aaron (unverified)


    A crown of thorns..using Google is the precursor of the second-coming?!

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)

    And . . . I saw a Virgin Mary displayed on a Cheese Sandwich.

    It could be just cool art? But they forgot to slap a windsurfer on the immage, this time.

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    Google may be saluting it's capitol investment in The Dalles.

  • Louis Haywood (unverified)

    The g's upside down because it's a 6! Boy, I hope it has something to do with Oregon. Happy New Year!

  • amy (unverified)

    I'm with ya! I see it! I do, really!



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    I lurve Google, but they can't destroy Microsoft before I get my development certifications. So we're talking at least a year.

    Besides, Sun-style (Java) webdevs do nasty things like try to sell the free software we get at MSDN Events on EBay. Better those guys get stopped first.

  • Danny Haszard (unverified)

    Thank you google and all cybergeeks, born 1957 i watched Saturday morning cartoons on a vacume tube b+w tv.Now help today is only a mouse click away.-Danny Haszard

  • Samuel John Klein (unverified)

    These days it's like a beneficent version of Colossus: The Forbin Project.

    Remember when it was just another search engine? Behind Yahoo!?

    Good times.

  • Adam (unverified)

    To add to the story, Google is hiring for a positing in Portland. Only one, it developer. Perhaps it is the start of a trend.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Explanation of Google's New Year's Day Iconography

    At first I was confused, but then it all became clear, blazingly clear.

    Receeding snowpacks beneath hot sun: a warning about global warming, and the perils of old style industry in comparison to clean technology based industry (Google!).

    Three mountains: the trinity. One sun, that's for unitarians and nature worshippers. The beavers are clearly constructing a six sided structure: a star of David. The beaver: That's B for Buddha (note round tummy.) The 6: well I fear to say it. Clearly a catalog of systems of thought and life, but all tied together by that which will supersede them: The humble beaver, a powerful creature which through its innocent steady nawing (Google Search Bots) and assembling (Google databases) at trees (traditional paper based libraries) transforms the ecosystem in which it lives (the information economy) and enables new ecosystems to flourish (Google!) This is about access to all the world's information and the world peace and unity that it will create. Case closed. Peace, and happy new year.

  • tk (unverified)

    Um, am I missing something here? How did we get from a rather generic looking Google banner (with an animal and mountainscape found in many areas of North America) to surmising they have big plans for the NW?? I like to dream like everyone else, but...

    In preparation for their, and others, supposed arrival, may I suggest we give the appearance that Oregon actually cares about education? Or are they coming because enough educated members of the 'creative class' have moved here, bringing real credentials? Yo, Guv Kulongowski and legislature, roll out the red carpet and fund K-16 like you actually want companies to move here.

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    Um, tk, there is still no "dubya" in Kulongoski.

  • Avenging (unverified)

    Google does not always live up to its corporate creed of "Do No Evil." Take de facto censorship of the site content of its advertisers.

    For just one sad example, see:

    "Google's Gag Order: An Internet Giant Threatens Free Speech"

  • Jon (unverified)

    Or it could just be the fact that they know where you are by your IP address, and they are adjusting the banner accordingly? Just a thought...

    But as far as "big plans for the NW"....arent they opening up an office out in the Gorge sometime soon?

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