Google criticized for unremarkable doodle on Armistice Day

Google criticized for unremarkable doodle on Armistice Day

Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) Google doodle on Armistice Day was criticized for being unremarkable (2) Bing was applauded for the remarkable redesign of its front page on Armistice Day (3) Soldiers of 64th US regiment celebrating the news of the Armistice on 11th November 1918. (4) Allied representatives at the Armistice signing outside a railway carriage in Compiegne forest, France on 11th November 1918.  

Every year on 11th November, Armistice Day is memorialized to mark the truce between the WWI Allies and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the discontinuance of warfare on the Western Front. The agreement went into effect at the 11th hour on 11th day of 11 month of the year 1918. Though hostilities continued across the Ottoman and Russian Empires, the Armistice Day is officially recognized as the end of WWI and was declared a national holiday in many allied countries to remember the soldiers who were killed during the WWI. Armistice Day is observed on 4th November in Italy due to Armistice of Villa Giusti between Austria-Hungary and Italy went into effect from 4th November 1918.

The first ever commemoration of Armistice Day was held at Buckingham Palace, London, in 1919. In Belgium, France and New Zealand the name of the holiday remains Armistice Day. Since 2012, the day has been a legal holiday in Serbia. In the United States the day is called Veterans Day and in most Commonwealth states it’s called the Remembrance Day. WWI is not observed in the Netherlands as the country remained neutral in the war. Web edition of UK’s renowned news paper The Daily Telegraph reported that British MPs and social media users have criticized the search engine giant Google for the tribute doodle on Armistice Day being unremarkable and according to Labor MP Gerry Sutcliffe, ‘demeaning’.

Like many other countries of the world, Britain’s most popular search engine is Google. The search engine frequently changes its front page design with a new special Google logo called Google doodle, which comes with additional symbolic modifications marking special dates and anniversaries. However, Google’s designers chose a tiny hovering poppy somewhere below the search text box to mark 11th November 2013, the 95th Armistice Day. The downplayed doodle was in sharp contrast to Google’s rival search engine Bing, which revamped its front page with a remarkable large poppy surrounded by commemoration crosses. The small doodle opted by Google for the day was also in sharp disparity to the other detailed and creative doodle designs which were used to mark other anniversaries.

Labor MP on the Media, Culture and Sport committee, Gerry Sutcliffe and other British MPs criticized the understated Armistice Day doodle.  Gerry said that not having something around Remembrance Day was ‘demeaning’. He also hoped that designers at Google would give a better effort next year to mark the centenary of the inception of the WWI.

Tory MP on defense select committee, Julian Braizer, applauded Bing and said that they had made ‘a clear & unmistakable gesture’. Many Twitter users also expressed their anger using hash tags like ‘Lest We Forget’ and ‘Show some respect’.

A Google spokesman has responded to the criticism. He said that Google tried to be sensitive and sometimes the doodle was not the most appropriate way to recognize certain somber events. He also said that for Google users’ important and meaningful events, instead of doodles, commemorative graphics on Google’s homepage are used to mark those dates.

The cultural tradition of using remembrance poppy to commemorate the fallen soldiers in war has started since 1920. It was inspired by the WWI era poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. It was written on 3rd May 1915, by Canadian physician Lt Colonel John McCrae and was published in London based magazine Punch on 8th December, 1915. Some lines of the war poetry are as follows:

‘In Flanders Fields poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place & in the sky, larks still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below”

Video story: A reading of Lt Colonel John McCrea’s 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Fields’

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE