Google's new Bing-like look disappears

Google says 'bug' forced company to take down new background images

Only hours after launching vibrant background imagery on its home page, Google stripped the page back to its usual stark white.

Earlier today, anyone going to Google's home page probably was surprised to find the site looking a lot like Google's biggest search rival, Microsoft's Bing.

Google's home page with photo of a pond
Google today started offering customized background photos such as this one for its home page.

Google had made what was supposed to be a one-day-only change to its usually stark, white home page with colorful images from artists, photographers and sculptors such as Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness and Polly Apfelbaum serving as background images.

Google said today in a blog post that on Friday, the site's home page will go back to normal.

That schedule was moved up -- way up. Between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern today, the background images disappeared.

Google said it had planned to run an explanation of why the home page 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 home page, 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.

Jayfanelli tweeted, "If Apple ran, they would've never added a background image. They would've made the white background whiter." And Designbyblake tweeted, "I love being able to add custom background on Google now. I just uploaded a giant all white image."

And Microsoft, showing a sense of humor, had a little Twitter fun at Google's expense with MSEurope tweeting, "We've lost a background image, if found please return to ;)"

Today's imagery on Google comes on the heels of last week's announcement that Google was unveiling a new feature that would enable users to add a favorite photo or image to the background of the Google home page.

"Whether you choose a photo of a loved one, a picture of your favorite vacation destination or even a design you created yourself, is now yours to customize," 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 personalized view, we've made it easy to switch between your customized search page and classic Google."

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

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

"The new look could give the impression that they are copying the more colorful Bing," said Dan Olds, an analyst at 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."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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