Gone Before Their Time, But Not Forgotten: Google Adds, Then Removes Background Images

The Google homepage with a photographic background, since-disabled.

What's wrong with this picture?

Sometime last night, Google got a lot more Bing-y. Overnight, visitors to google.com were suddenly presented not with the classically simple Google homepage, featuring a prominent search bar on a white background, but instead with the usual Google logo search bar and other links over one of a series of photos. Though Google had added an option to customize their homepage with an image of your choice last week, this was something else entirely, and the result was not-a-little-unlike Microsoft’s Bing homepage. Suddenly one of the biggest visual differences between the dueling search engines had vanished, and most surprisingly of all, it was Google imitating Microsoft.

Needless to say, the Internet was not happy about the change. “Remove google background” shot up Google’s own trending topics chart, and as of this post remains in the number 7 spot (it peaked at number 2), with “delete google background” not far behind at number 16. So unhappy was the internet, in fact, that Google went ahead and removed the homepage backgrounds early this afternoon. Why the change of heart? Did Google realize that they’d made a huge mistake? Should Mark Zukerberg and his Facebook cronies take note?

Don’t be silly! It was all a big mix-up! According to an update at the bottom of this post from the Official Google Blog, it was all part of an effort to show off the ability to set your own custom Google homepage background. Google VP of Search Products & User Experience (and huge Killers fan) Marissa Mayer explains that the images displayed earlier today were meant to be examples, with an explanation accompanying them. Unfortunately a “bug” meant that “the explanatory link did not appear for most users,” and so they decided to stop this little demo a little early.

Riiiiiight. We find it a little hard to believe that the crack team at Google couldn’t just rectify this “bug” and add that missing explanation that would have somehow made everything better. Still, it’s a fast enough backpedal that Google may just earn a pass on this one. Since everything is already back to normal the negative internet groundswell that might have helped to keep this in the collective consciousness probably won’t materialize. If that’s the case then misstep might just further prove how agile Google really is. Making a huge mistake is one thing when you’re the most popular website in the world, but fixing it so quickly that you squelch the groundswell of opposition and negative coverage? That’s something else entirely, and damn impressive.

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