Google’s 19th birthday doodle: But we don’t know whose birthday it is

As it turns out, it is Google’s 19th birthday on Wednesday. And to celebrate it, the tech giant has plastered a rather elaborate doodle on the search engine’s homepage. It illustrates a proper party spread, with a cake, some candles and party hats too. Amid all this explosion of colour, it is easy to miss out on the spin wheel that sits just behind the chocolate (at it looks like chocolate) cake. Google calls this the surprise spinner, and you click on that to play the spin wheel game.

This game is available on the web version as well as the mobile version of the homepage. Keep hitting the play button to reveal a new surprise every time. When you spin a wheel, it finally comes to a halt at one of the surprises. You get the option of either spinning the wheel again (which is relevant if you have been spending too much time with this) or click to open the surprise. As it turns out, the surprise games also consist of the doodles that Google has unwrapped in the past.

One surprise will take you to the MusicLab, which is a part of Google Experiments—here, it allows you to play arpeggios in different patterns, and you tap the wheel to explore major and minor chords—someone with no knowledge of musical theory or songwriting, will be as coordinated with this as a baby deer walking on ice. If you land up on the surprise with the chicken animation, you will be taken to a search page of “animal sounds” with the “Grrr” sound of a tiger leading the way—it is a mystery what the purpose of this might be in our lives, all of a sudden. One of the surprises will take you to a DJ console with two turntables—figuring your way out around this is perhaps slightly more complicated than an actual turntable, in the real world.

A more relevant surprise is the one that takes us to a search page about breathing exercises—now this could be a page to bookmark, if you regularly have stressful days at work.

The Google search engine, with over 4.5 billion users globally and available in 160 countries, otherwise has a very important role in our lives. This latest doodle attempt might initially be cool, but it gets very tiresome, very quickly.

The funniest part perhaps is that we still don’t know what this 19th birthday is for. Is it Google which is turning 19 on 27 September? Or are the doodles turning 19? Or is it something else, there is no clarity on the significance of 29 September. If we go by when the domain was registered in September 1997, the company would be 20 and not 19-year old. Perhaps it is the date of incorporation, which happened on 4 September 1998? Maybe there isn’t one date, but that shouldn’t come in the way of a good celebration. And a nice doodle.