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Google bouncing-balls logo amuses, bemuses visitors

This morning's Internet mystery resides on Google's home page -- an animated version of its logo that consists of a swarm of bouncing balls that coalesce to form the company's logo. But once you steer the cursor towards them, they fly apart and flee around the window.


This logo reminds me of the playable version of Pac-Man that Google presented in May, though it doesn't have the same destructive effect on office productivity.

But the Mountain View, Calif., company has yet to explain what it's trying to say with its latest in a long line of custom logos. Today's animation has yet to be mentioned on its official blog, and Google's PR office has not answered an e-mail I sent earlier this morning.

A story in London's Telegraph quotes a company spokeswoman as saying, "Today's doodle is fast, fun and interactive, just the way we think search should be."

That piece suggests that the balls logo celebrates the 12th anniversary of Google's founding. A PC World write-up echoes that speculation but also wonders if the doodle commemorates the 15th anniversary of JavaScript and notes how it's written in the Web's HTML 5 language instead of Adobe Flash.

Maybe Google is just trying to demonstrate that you don't have to use Flash for fancy animated graphics anymore? That's an excellent point, although some users have complained that the bouncing balls bog down their computers. You will, however, need a modern browser to see Google's creation -- i.e., not Microsoft's obsolete Internet Explorer 6 -- and in case you don't have one, Google helpfully provides a link to download its own Chrome browser.

(4:09 p.m. The animation's worked fine for me in Safari and Firefox in Mac OS X as well as Firefox, Chrome and IE 8 in Windows. I see some of you have reported issues viewing it in IE 8, but I have no idea what those might be.)

I guess that's yet another possible explanation for the logo. What's yours?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 7, 2010; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Search , The Web  
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I wish they had an option to turn it off - I've seen it, I've played with it, it's very clever, well done Google, now please don't show it to me again as it's starting to get annoying.

Posted by: getjiggly | September 7, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Check out this strange story about two employees who work at the cell phone social networking company Loopt:

Posted by: freighter | September 7, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Anyone that has a problem with Google's logos needs to learn what the search bar is in all modern browsers (and if your browser is too ancient to have a search bar, then you shouldn't be surfing the internet with it). I never see Google's logos because I use the search bar - I find out about special ones like this by reading other sides.

Posted by: rjm1 | September 7, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I have the opposite problem. I can't get the special logo to appear. I've gone to Google's homepage in both Firefox and IE (current versions of both), and just see the plain vanilla Google logo.

Posted by: kenjabi | September 7, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

When I go to Google's home page the logo just sits there and does nothing. (I'm using Explorer 7.)

I feel

What should I do?


Bored Federal Worker

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | September 7, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

It's annoying and distracting and will probably trigger me to have a seizure.

Posted by: nicekid | September 7, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

sigh. I can't see it either, curmudgeon.


Posted by: CJH2 | September 7, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

who's google?

Posted by: eezmamata | September 7, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Some connection perhaps with August Kekule, who devised the theory of chemical valences - and who formulated the structure of the benzine ring? September 7 is his birthday. Seems a long stretch though.

Posted by: cyboman1 | September 7, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Purpose: To generate free advertising by The Washington Post.

Posted by: hoos3014 | September 7, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Maybe this is an artistic way to represent all the rubber checks that the democrats are writing?

Posted by: rexreddy | September 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Yes, it is a commemoration of Kekulé's birthday from the Wikipedia article on
Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz:

"The other anecdote he told in 1890, of a vision of dancing atoms and molecules that led to his theory of structure, happened (he said) while he was riding on the upper deck of a horse-drawn omnibus in London. If true, this probably occurred in the late summer of 1855."

That clinches it

Posted by: cyboman1 | September 7, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Well I just went back and it appears they have turned it off. (or it was a one shot.)
hmmmm Maybe my first guess was right.

Posted by: rexreddy | September 7, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Not turned off at all; I still get it.

Posted by: dkp01 | September 7, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

It made me hungry for Wonder Bread.

Posted by: mikedow1 | September 7, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The Chrome (Google browser) logo is a ball, so I think that's the tie-in.

Posted by: jenniferseidel | September 7, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

it doesnt come up on my screen either

Posted by: SaveTheRainforest | September 7, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

" although some users have complained that the bouncing balls bog down their computers."

Wah wah wah, get off that Tandy 1000 and upgrade.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | September 7, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I thought it was to commemorate (or criticize) those words spelled in dots on certain web pages.

Today is also the anniversary of the first-ever submarine attack (1776, in New York) and the first-ever airplane crash. But Kekulé is probably right.

Posted by: SoloOwl | September 7, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Yes on Firefox, no on Safari 4.1.1.

Posted by: anne37 | September 7, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The balls are showcasing a couple of power feature on moderns browsers: HTML5 2D canvas and fast Javascript engine. See another example designed for Google's Chrome browser:

What is HTML5 2D canvas:
Javascript engine:

Note that's website doesn't offer this "art" to IE7, Firefox 3.x etc. Only to Safari, Chrome and similar.

Posted by: TheYoungBuddha | September 7, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I wish that the Washington Post would stop serving as a free press organ for Google and would report on something other than the corporation taking a dump over its own homepage.

Posted by: getjiggly | September 7, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

If anyone has ever traveled to Hartford/Springfield Airport (BDL) Travelers Insurance has 4 unbrellas on a wall that do the same thing.

I think it's neat.

Posted by: jwash4472 | September 7, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"the balls logo" *snort*

If for no other reason, they did it to get that phrase printed.

Posted by: NotForYou1 | September 7, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

jwash, I just traveled through Bradley this weekend, and the Google logos made me think immediately of the Travelers umbrellas, too. It is pretty cool (cooler than the Google logo).

Posted by: alizadk | September 7, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I can't see it in IE8. I checked multimedia settings under Internet Options / Advanced and I don't see any reason why it doesn't display. I can see it in Chrome and Firefox.

Posted by: foofoofoo | September 7, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Oops, correction. I have IE7 at work, where I am now. I can't see it in IE7. I don't know whether it displays in IE8; that's what I have at home.

Posted by: foofoofoo | September 7, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I think has the answer sewn up: Google is demonstrating its HTML5 abilities. The ATBOM team caught the new doodle right after midnight. The post is here:

Posted by: jp11234 | September 7, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I love all the Google logos and have my home page set up for Google just so I don't miss any of the logos. Guess I'm easy to amuse. This one does not annoy me at all.

Posted by: jtsw | September 7, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

This is not news. Relevance fail WAPO.

Posted by: m1232 | September 7, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Aw, for us non-eggheads, it's just fun.

Posted by: nrcahill11 | September 7, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Google - just for fun.

But I did download Chrome for my wife.

Much better.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 7, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

"Purpose: To generate free advertising by The Washington Post."

Good point. Nobody was even thinking about Google or using its services until this Post article.

They were all slowly, but surely moving to Bing, but I'll bet this article stopped it in its tracks.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | September 7, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Force directed graphs in JavaScript are not a new concept. Some guy had a demo for this over 4 years ago:
This version is not all that much more powerful.

Posted by: slar | September 7, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Seems to be an USA only event.
When I am using a VPN connection to the USA I see the bouncing balls. When I am not using the VPN connection (I am in Austria) I get the normal Google logo. This is with FireFox 3.6.8 on Mac OS X 10.6.4.

Posted by: tonvo | September 7, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

"A PC World write-up echoes that speculation but also wonders if the doodle commemorates the 15th anniversary of JavaScript and notes how it's written in the Web's HTML 5 language instead of Adobe Flash."

Actually, there's nothing specifically HTML5-related in this demo, though there is a smattering of CSS3 for browsers that support it. It would work exactly the same if you changed the doctype of the page.

Basically, the balls are just little blocks ("div" elements, in web developer terminology) with one of two things done to them to make the circles:

- If you're using any version of IE other than version 9 (which should be in beta this month), a single full stop character is used in the default monospace font. Right-click the page and choose "Select all" to see this; the full stops will be selected. Note that the balls don't change size either!

- If you're using any other modern browser, the CSS3 "border-radius" property is used to turn what would otherwise be coloured boxes into circles.

- When you move your mouse, the boxes are shifted out of position using a formula based on where your mouse was when you moved it. (And if it's a modern browser, the box size/radius is animated too.)

It's a neato trick, but trust me: HTML5 has nothing to do with it! :)

Posted by: JordanGray | September 7, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe its just for fun. Does everything have to have a deeper meaning?

Posted by: main1063 | September 7, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Why does everyone always find something to complain about.....get over it

Posted by: adamosmitty1 | September 7, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

If you use Chrome, you will see that the balls are actually balloons and behave as if you walk among a large number of balloons. They scatter just as real balloons do.

Posted by: mraj5 | September 7, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: msst895 | September 7, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Regarding reasons for the Google logo: one other thing it could be effectively describing is the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle. With that principle, you can accurately measure either the speed or the location of an electron, but not both at the same time because the measuring instrument affects the measurement in such a way that you can't determine both.

It's probably a good description of what it's like to measure temperatures approaching absolute zero too: In that scenario, the measurement probe gives motion to the atoms, causing their movement, and thus an increase in temperature.

I'm sure neither of those two reasons are why Google chose the logo, but it seems like a good illustration for them both anyway.

Posted by: JJOhio | September 7, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

What the heck is the internet? oh, and it's Obama or Bush's fault. Ha Ha!

Posted by: asiwasaying | September 7, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Re: the goofy balls, I suspect it's all just a silly homage back to the very early days of Google after they left their garage space in Menlo Park. If you visited their first "real" office - as I once did many years ago when they were on a second floor walk up in downtown Palo Alto - they had dozens of type of balls in various sizes literally all over the office ... big balls, little balls, exercise balls, etc.

Posted by: rmorgan27 | September 7, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Think of it like this: your cursor is Net Neutrality, and Google is the balls.

Posted by: doctordawg | September 7, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

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