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Today's Google Doodle Is a Ballsy Move Into Web Coding Future

Google doodle

Google's doodle today is a rare thing—one of their interactive efforts. It's a load of balls. Bouncing, colored balls that make up the famous Google logo. Everyone's pondering why. We think we know. It's about the future of Web tech, with no apologies to Adobe's aging Flash.

Google's doodles normally celebrate a special national or international day, famous person in history or some such ... but today's one has everyone confused. Plus, instead of the normal, occasionally amusing, static doodles, today's doodle is animated: Flying colored balls rattle around before settling down to form Google's logo, and when you move your mouse pointer over them they flee from its presence (also if you hold down shift, or alt or a bunch of other keys). Flying colored balls, however, don't seem to signify anything other than flying colored balls.

Their passing similarity to balloons got some people wondering about parties ... but is today Google's birthday? Some think it is, some think it isn't--the company was inaugurated on September 4th, for example. But Google's own company history page explains: "On September 7, 1998, Google Inc. opened its door in Menlo Park, California. The door came with a remote control, as it was attached to the garage of a friend who sublet space to the new corporation's staff of three. The office offered several big advantages, including a washer and dryer and a hot tub. It also provided a parking space for the first employee hired by the new company: Craig Silverstein, now Google's director of technology." So it is a Google birthday—its 12th year since its first company property opened.

But as the U.K.'s Guardian has noticed, the tech driving the doodle is important. It's not Adobe's Flash, which could be programmed to do exactly this, but which many think represents last-generation Web thinking. It's actually CSS, the powerful "style sheet" coding protocol behind many of today's websites: Each colored ball is a CSS entity (in the lingo, a "div") that's programmed to act by itself. This is a jokey but impressive demonstration of the power of future Web coding, using tech like CSS and HTML5, which is smooth on today's typical PCs even though it's rendered inside a browser. Basically Google's saying "look what the Web (possibly via our swanky browser, Chrome) will be capable of on our next birthday!" Unless you're browsing the Web with IE (shame on you) or Opera, which Google hasn't made this code work properly for.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.