Friday, June 11, 2010

Google's changed home page sparks confusion

Google's changed home page sparks confusion
Copyright by Dow Jones Newswires
Published on June 10, 2010 4:53 PM

Google Inc.'s website sparked some confusion and a brief backlash Thursday as Internet users discovered a temporary switch on its home page to bold, colorful background photos from its traditional white, uncluttered design.

The Internet giant, which launched a new feature last week that allows Google account holders to choose their own background for its search engine, sought to demonstrate the feature by pre-loading selected photos when people went to the website.
But many users were surprised and a little disappointed at what appeared to be the loss of one of Google's overlooked advantages in the search-engine battle with rival Microsoft Corp.'s Bing: the sparse and uncluttered display of a single text box against an empty background.

There was a fast response on social-networking site Twitter, with scores of users quickly commenting on the changes. "Why are there giant ugly background images on Google now?" one user wrote. Another user said it appeared Google was "trying to copy Bing," which, since its introduction last year, has featured photos of city skylines, seascapes and other such shots.

Some Twitter users, however, said they liked the switch.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the site had reverted to its traditional display, with "Google" in primary colors against a minimalist white background.

Google had planned to add a hyperlink on the page that would contain an explanation that the change was only temporary. But the company said in a blog post that, "due to a bug, the explanatory link did not appear for most users."

"As a result many people thought we had permanently changed our homepage, so we decided to stop today's series early," said Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president, on the blog.

Earlier, a Google spokesman said the company has been asked to create more ways to customize the site, and the images Thursday were an example of what users can change. The switch was planned for one-day only, and was expected to revert back to normal on Friday.

While Google's move could suggest that the company is feeling pressure from Bing, Google remains far ahead of its search rival, conducting 64% of U.S. Internet searches, with Bing at 12 percent. Microsoft has increased its share of Internet searches by 3.4 percentage points since Bing's launch, but most gains came at the expense of Yahoo.

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