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Google homepage experiment proves unpopular

New Bing-like background quickly look disappears

Only hours after launching vibrant background imagery on its homepage, Google stripped the page back to its usual stark white following complaints from users.

Yesterday, anyone going to Google's homepage probably was surprised to find the site looking a lot like Google's biggest search rival, Microsoft 's Bing. Google today started offering customised background photos such as this one to its home page.

Google had made what was supposed to be a one-day-only change to its usually stark, white homepage with colourful images from artists, photographers and sculptors. Images from the likes of Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness and Polly Apfelbaum served as background images on Google's homepage.

Google Home Page background

However, Google said in a blog post that the site's homepage would quickly return to normal.

Google said it had planned to run an explanation of why the homepage had a new look along with the imagery. Because of a technical bug, the explanation didn't show up.

"As a result, many people thought we had permanently changed our homepage, so we decided to stop today's series early," wrote Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of Search Products and User Experience. "We appreciate your feedback and patience as we experiment and iterate."

Many users can't be unhappy to see the page back to its normal stark white. Earlier today, there was widespread condemnation by users who didn't appreciate the new look. Many also were critical that they needed to create a Google account to get rid of the background images.

Some took to Twitter to air their grievances about the Bing-like change. So many people were tweeting about the new look that they made the phrase 'background image' one of Twitter's top 10 trends.

Yesterday's experiment comes on the heels of last week's announcement that Google was unveiling a new feature that enables users to add a favourite photo or image to the background of the Google homepage.

"Whether you choose a photo of a loved one, a picture of your favourite vacation destination or even a design you created yourself, Google.com is now yours to customise," wrote Mayer, in a blog post last week.

"For those of you who want to enjoy the clean, simple look of Google, as well as your personalised view, we've made it easy to switch between your customised search page and classic Google."

Users will be able to customise the homepage with one of Google's images, or with their own pictures from their computers or their Picasa Web Album. Users who don't want to change can leave the page its usual utilitarian white.

The new look for Google's homepage was startling though, since it so closely mirrors the vibrant look of Microsoft Bing's homepage.

"The new look could give the impression that they are copying the more colourful Bing," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it's not a bad idea to copy the successful attributes of competitors. Being able to select your own pictures is a nice feature, but it's not a huge advantage, it's more of an evolution in the search wars."

Read The real reason Google pretended to be Bing


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