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City Changes Name to Half.com

Dateline: 01/24/00

Last week, the city council of a tiny city in Oregon approved a proclamation to name their city Half.com for the remainder of the year to become America's first ".com" city. However, the city of approximately 345 (2,000 in the surrounding region) has been, and will continue to officially be known as Halfway, Oregon.

Last December, the city was approached to change its name by the marketing staff of the new Internet startup Half.com, which operates as a sort of online garage sale for people to sell each other used books, CDs, and movies, at reduced prices.

In exchange for the temporary proclamation by the City Council, the company will provide the city with 20 computers for its elementary school, a free city web site, and "seed money" for economic development. Plus, both the city and the company have already gained worldwide attention from the publicity stunt.

As to why Half.com decided to ask a city to change its name, Half.com company founder Joshua Kopelman stated in an interview, "We were talking about how to get the company on the map and we said, 'Why don't we get on the map. Literally.'" Other cities that have names that begin with "half" were approached but only Halfway, Oregon was receptive and met the needs of the company.

Half.com is literally on the map, for now.

Some townsfolk are upset that the city is only receiving about $110,000 worth of services while the company, Half.com, has received much more in worldwide publicity of their company, including a live broadcast last week on the NBC's Today Show. The company also wants to place a "Welcome to Half.com" sign adjacent to the official city limit sign currently on the highway into town.

Halfway, Oregon originally earned its name in the 1800s as a water stop town for horses halfway along the route between the Gold Rush towns of Cornucopia and Sparta. Though the city relied on logging for much of its history, logging has slowed down and today the town is building itself up as a tourism spot. Half.com/Halfway, Oregon is located about 50 miles (80 km) east of Baker City off Interstate 84 and lies less than 10 miles (16 km) from the Idaho border.

While Half.com, Oregon might be the first town to have an (albeit unofficial) name that ends in ".com," it's certainly not the first city to change its name for publicity's sake. In 1950, the city of Hot Springs, New Mexico officially and permanently changed its name to Truth or Consequences in honor of the tenth anniversary of a popular radio show. Due to that name change, a special 10th anniversary show was broadcast from the newly re-named city.

In the mid-1950s, the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk in Pennsylvania merged to form the borough of Jim Thorpe, in honor of the Olympic athelete. In 1995, the tiny (pop. 28) town of Ismay, Montana changed its name to Joe, Montana in honor of the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, Joe Montana.

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