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Google Introduces, Then Scraps, Bing-Style Background Images 466

Posted by timothy
from the go-beyond-your-imitations dept.
NIN1385 writes "Google has scrapped the now infamous background image option on its homepage. After 14 hours of a scheduled 24-hour experiment to see how people liked (or disliked) the new homepage layout, the company must have found out it was very disliked. I guess the fact that 'remove Google background' was the seventh most searched for phrase today might have had something to do with it."
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Google Introduces, Then Scraps, Bing-Style Background Images

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  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @03:59PM (#32527238)
    Google was browser sniffing again and didnt offer this "feature" to Opera users (who could get it to work simply by identifying as any of the supported browsers,) Opera users rejoiced.
    • Personally I liked this "feature". [imgur.com]
    • Neither did people who used pre-release versions of Firefox like me

      ...But of course this means that people with ancient versions of IE didn't have to see it also...
    • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:31PM (#32527752) Journal

      My main issue (Firefox 3.6) was I couldn't get rid of the damn thing, or change images. Clicking "Change Background Image" did nothing. Clicking their main link which was supposed to tell me more about it, took me right back to the homepage. Useless.

      It might've been okay if they had put a faded pillar in the center of the screen, so all the text didn't get washed out. Oh, and had options that did something.

      • Did you have noscript on? You needed to enable something like gmodules.com to make it work.

  • I still see the link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamapizza (1312801) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:00PM (#32527250)
    The feature still seems to be available - so you can set an image if you want, but I guess they won't be providing you with one of their own picked images as a default.
    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:08PM (#32528306) Homepage

      "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away"

      The google homepage was perfect, practically from it's inception, up to a few years ago.
      Recent experiments have made me switch from a search engine homepage, to the firefox search bar. Since the firefox bar is a list, it also encourages me to shop around for results.

      • by bobcat7677 (561727) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:19PM (#32529180) Homepage
        I second the above. When I started using Google so many years ago, it was more because the page was lean and loaded fast then how relevant the search results were. And the lean simple home page is 100% of the reason al my browsers and the browsers of most of the machines I have worked on over the years have been set to use google.com as their start page. The search results were something I grew to like over time. But even to this day, the lean, simple, search page is at least 50% of the reason I use Google search primarily. Even all the little links and the "iGoogle" thing have been annoying to me at times. I want a page as lean and fast as possible. If they are going to put a bunch of crap on there that makes the page go slow I might as well go use Bing or whatever...there is no longer the big advantage keeping me going back to google.
  • Thanks god. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:00PM (#32527252)

    Now if only they'd get rid of that awful text fading in. What's that about?

    • Re:Thanks god. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:05PM (#32527316)

      Now if only they'd get rid of that awful text fading in. What's that about?

      So stop running their JavaScript by default. NoScript works well for this purpose. Google.com works perfectly well without JS of any kind. If you use Gmail you'll need to allow JS from gmail.com but as gmail.com != google.com you can be selective here.

    • by DriedClexler (814907) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:06PM (#32527334)

      What text fading? I don't see any text fading. You must have done something wrong. Especially if you wouldn't even know how to modify that feature. [/typical enthusiast forum response]

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      That's not a bad feature actually. It makes it easy to quickly see the search bar where you can type in your search. That's what the page is for after all.
    • Re:Thanks god. (Score:5, Informative)

      by thms (1339227) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:13PM (#32527452)

      It is a reference to their early days. Back when Altavista & Co. were the dominant search engines they had incredibly cluttered interfaces, they were more like web portals.

      Then Google came along with just a logo, an input field and two buttons. And of course an awesome search algorithm. Not showing the inevitable clutter that has crept in for the first few seconds is their way of having and eating the purity cake.

      • Re:Thanks god. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Radish03 (248960) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:36PM (#32527836)

        It's not necessarily hidden for just the first few seconds. It's based on mouse movement. If you mouse over the page, the text fades in. If you just open the site, the search box has an active cursor, so you type your query, hit enter, and you're off without ever seeing any of the clutter they've added.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LiquidCoooled (634315)

          the clutter they have added is remaining logged in and making it difficult to tell at a glance.

    • The fadein is to present a simplistic uncluttered style. It happens when you move the mouse.

      If you use Google as a homepage, opening a new Window/Tab and typing something in the box means you'll never encounter the fadein.

    • Re:Thanks god. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Korbeau (913903) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:34PM (#32527800)

      My guess about this one is that they don't want you to notice that you are almost always "logged in" into Google search if, for instance, you have a Youtube or Gmail account. With the fade-in, you don't really notice the "log out" option in the top-right corner.

      I remember being very surprised to see that I was always searching in "authenticated" mode because I told Gmail to keep me logged in (btw, the option is checked by default so probably most users are).

      I find it very frustrating that they decided to link all the accounts like this. I want to keep my search separated from my Youtube views/comments separated from my mail.

      (of course: they can still deduce who you are without being officially authenticated, but that's another story)

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:01PM (#32527260)
    There is a reason why few people use Bing, Yahoo!, Live, Ask, etc. if Google wants to branch out in different directions, do it under a different banner other than Google search.

    People like the way Google is/was, if they didn't, there would be a flood of people going to Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, and all the other search engines. Because there isn't, you can pretty easily realize that people like the way Google is.
    • by quantumplacet (1195335) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:08PM (#32527360)

      That's a pretty false dichotomy. Yes, the majority of people do seem to like Google better than they like Bing, Yahoo etc. But that doesn't mean all those people think everything Google does is perfect and they never want anything changed or have any new features added. Ultimately, if Google took your advice and search development became completely stagnant, then eventually the other search providers would improve over time and overtake Google.

      • But this wasn't a new "feature" it was purely an aesthetic look. You are going to get pretty similar search results with Bing, Yahoo, Google, Live, etc. lately but its mostly the look and feel that is different. Of course, there is some difference in search results put its generally so minimal you can find the same site within a few pages on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc on the same search term.
        • You're kind of contradicting yourself here. You say that search results are all the same, people pick their search engine based on aesthetics (which I strongly disagree with) but then you also say that a change in aesthetics is not a new feature.

          That aside, I definitely don't think Google should force a background image on their users, but it is a nice choice to have. Turning it on by default probably wasn't the best way to promote it, although it did make everyone aware of it's existence and I highly dou

      • This decision by Google is symptomatic of so much that's wrong is software.

        I remember when Google first came out, Altavista was the dominant search engine then and it was a mess. A page full of blinking ads, where one had to search for the search input. Google was a refreshing change, with that clean look. Now they are doing their best to throw it away. Pity.

        But that's not so different from the software world in general, people seem to find it pretty hard to leave well enough alone, although one *remarkable

    • We tend to only see what's inside the bubble.

      There is a reason why few people use Bing, Yahoo!, Live, Ask, etc...

      I can't speak for Yahoo, Live, Ask, etc., but from what I've noticed from most home users (you know, the ones who buy their computers at Best Buy and use them as is), they all use Bing. It has nothing to do with what people prefer. It's what's set as the default and most people use it.

      • Yes, but most of those time those people don't live in a vacuum. They have children who know how to use a computer and set the homepage to Google, they have geeks who for some reason have to use their computer and set it to Google, etc.

        While it is true that a lot of them use Bing, they aren't going to be very valuable for MS who spent tons of money in marketing and developing Bing when they are the same people who used the piece of crap MSN search because it was the default in IE.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      While I do like Google, it's impossible to say whether Google remains dominant because people really do prefer it over the alternatives, or simply because it's dominant and people either 1) don't know about the alternatives, or 2) assume that Google's search results will be the best because it's dominant.

      It's a bit like Microsoft's desktop monopoly. They certainly don't have 90+% marketshare because they're far-and-away better than everything else out there.

      It's in Google's best interest to make sure that

  • by eihab (823648) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:01PM (#32527266)

    There were also a couple of snarky [twitter.com] tweets [twitter.com] from Microsoft regarding the "bing-style" backgrounds.

    • by eihab (823648)

      Ops. The second link should have been this status message [twitter.com] instead of their twitter page.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:18PM (#32527506)

      Haha, yeah, I'm sure MS if gloating about how Google copied them. On the other hand, the response to the 'Bing' flavored Google was overwhelmingly negative, which can't make them feel too good. Especially since a lot of the comments that I saw were along the lines of "If I wanted this crap I would go use Bing".

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jayme0227 (1558821)

        Bing is my primary search engine and I'm a huge fan of its background images, but there was something about Google's execution of the background image that just irked me. Whether it was the white Google lettering, the full screen image rather than just partial screen, or merely the fact that they were copying Microsoft, it seemed... off.

        I guess my point is that the background images being bad for Google doesn't necessarily mean that they're bad for search engines, but just that this particular execution was

  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:02PM (#32527272) Homepage
    You might think a background image is nothing worth getting in a huge flap over, but let me explain why this experiment was so stupid.

    First, Google seems to have forgotten the early days of the search engine wars in which Yahoo, Excite, et al vied for the most user-hostile, craptacular portal landing pages. I believe it was primarily their choice of a minimal utilitarian design that made people flock to Google, and the quality of the search results, good as they were, was a distant secondary factor among typical users.

    Secondly, the actual execution of this feature was terrible. Not only were the images bright, garish, and distracting, but there was NO option to turn it off. Sure if you spent a few minutes digging you could find the "editor's choice" images, and if you scrolled all the way down to the bottom you could find white. But then if you picked that, you would get white text on a white background. Brilliant.

    Google has said in the past that they use an empirical, incremental approach to UI design where user actions are studied and these guide decisions down to the level of how many pixels to make a line or what font size to use. Some have rightly pointed out that this will cause you to get stuck on local maxima and you need to have a methodology that allows for some creative design. But forcing such a butt ugly intrusion on all users for the purposes of a trial is ridiculous. If they really wanted to do a trial they could have simply served this to, say, 1 in 10,000 users (based on IP+useragent hash, for example) and got the exact same information.

    No, this could only have been the brainchild of a marketroid who thought it would be necessary to "make a splash" and get some "buzz" going. Well congratulations, you got your feedback and the answer is a resounding "fuck off". Google has officially run out of ideas if this is the best they can come up with.

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:08PM (#32527370)

      Google seems to have forgotten the early days of the search engine wars in which Yahoo, Excite, et al vied for the most user-hostile, craptacular portal landing pages. I believe it was primarily their choice of a minimal utilitarian design that made people flock to Google, and the quality of the search results, good as they were, was a distant secondary factor among typical users.
      [...]
      Google has officially run out of ideas if this is the best they can come up with.

      Good. Maybe without ideas they'll stagnate and, as a result, remain popular.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thud457 (234763)

      Google has said in the past that they use an empirical, incremental approach to UI design where user actions are studied and these guide decisions

      I have google set as my home page, and the first thing I did when I got to work was search for what is this shite, Bing?! So, google reverting to a lightweight UI -- that was my idea!

    • by Linker3000 (626634) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:18PM (#32527520) Journal
      ..Thirdly, on train with a laptop with a 3G dongle it was f*king awful-to-impossible to load and eat up my data allowance.

      The person or people at Google eho thought this was a good idea should be given a severe ass-kicking, with the video of the event posted on Youtube.
    • Google seems to have forgotten the early days of the search engine wars in which Yahoo, Excite, et al vied for the most user-hostile, craptacular portal landing pages. I believe it was primarily their choice of a minimal utilitarian design that made people flock to Google, and the quality of the search results, good as they were, was a distant secondary factor among typical users.

      Which is why I a quite frustrated when I first saw iGoogle and thought it was their new look. They should have tested this on iGoogle; google.com is for people who don't want annoying bullshit on their search engine.

    • Not only were the images bright, garish, and distracting, but there was NO option to turn it off.

      I use the address bar in Chrome for my searches so I rarely ever visit the Google homepage. So unfortunately I missed this. I think it looks pretty good (but even when I used Google I used iGoogle so I had a nice design on the page all the same).

      Anyway, in the screenshot [imgur.com] that the guy posted above, it clearly says "Remove background image" in the bottom left.. how did you (and presumably millions of others who Googled "remove google background") miss that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Skater (41976)

      First, Google seems to have forgotten the early days of the search engine wars in which Yahoo, Excite, et al vied for the most user-hostile, craptacular portal landing pages. I believe it was primarily their choice of a minimal utilitarian design that made people flock to Google, and the quality of the search results, good as they were, was a distant secondary factor among typical users.

      There were days earlier than that. Yahoo was the clean page - I remember someone showing it took just 7 seconds to load on a 56K modem or something like that. Google didn't even exist. Then the clutter began, and Google was the one with the clean page.

  • by BondGamer (724662) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:02PM (#32527278) Journal
    Their idea of minimalism is clearly dead. Why do I need an image distracting me from a page I only visit for a couple seconds? It is not like a desktop which you will be looking at a lot. I go to Google.com to search the web, not look at a picture. To even attempt something like this shows they have lost their way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idbar (1034346)
      I really, still don't see the issue with this. I guess it's hard to be well known, everyone complains and nobody is never happy.

      These are customizations that can be removed. I opted for adding one of my picasa pictures. I I liked it.

      As for the "it's not like a desktop", it's to me a good indicator that they could be moving to Web Operating Systems, where you can add icons an launch applications from within your browser. Is that bad? Is that the way? I don't know, but while people complains about being
      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        I didn't see any "remove desktop picture" link in Safari last night. I was able to change the background to white after searching and figuring out how to do it.

    • by Cecil (37810) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:22PM (#32527572) Homepage

      You look at the desktop a lot? I can barely even remember what my desktop background is. I see it for about 10 seconds after a very rare reboot, while I'm waiting for various maximized applications to start.

  • by by (1706743) (1706744) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:04PM (#32527312)
    I only use the Pac-Man [google.com] page.
  • Not here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:05PM (#32527314)

    I just checked and Google.com still shows a "Change Background Image" link in the lower left corner, so it looks more like it's still an option, they just realized they confused people by defaulting it to on for a few hours.

    Anyway, it's just an option now. Nobody's forcing you to use it. I suspect the Slashdot crowd keeps it pretty real on the "give me a plain white background or give me death" tip, but a lot of people like this sort of silly eye candy.

    Anybody else remember back when we all switched to using Google *because* of the plain white background and simple layout?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by djdanlib (732853)

      Remember when Blackle [blackle.com] came out as a joke on the plain white background?

    • Re:Not here (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 2short (466733) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @07:20PM (#32529898)

      They didn't "default it to on". They made it impossible to turn off. You could pick an image via that link, but if you didn't, or if you did and them clicked "Remove Background Image", you got a rotating collection of Google-selected images. The intent was to do this for a day to publicize this exciting new feature.

      By the middle of the day they turned it off. They say because a bug made their explanatory link disappear for some users. (I saw it) I suspect the real reason was more to do with "turn off Google background image" being in their top-ten searches for the day.

  • iGoogle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by somaTh (1154199) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:05PM (#32527324) Journal
    Honestly, I haven't seen the main Google page in a while. Had no one sent me the link, I would've missed Pac-Man day.
    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      Ctrk-k, type search spec, enter, rejoice.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KiloByte (825081)

        That ugly search bar thing merely wastes screen space. I just type "g whatever" -- by default, the keyword is "google" but you can change it to just "g".

        It's especially useful if you want to search for something else -- like, going on to a given bug entry (in Debian's BTS / your project's Mantis / whatever) can be done with just "bts 213361". You could do that with the search bar, yeah, but it requires several clicks every single time.

  • Resistance to change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dward90 (1813520) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:05PM (#32527326)
    Google is finding out again (and has found out before) that, because they are the default search engine for so many people, they can't really make large interface changes. I recall reading that they would like to remove the "I'm feeling lucky" button (because no one uses it), but they can't. Users simply can't handle large changes. This is a sad truth of many consumers, especially in computers: change of any kind prohibits many users from functioning, even when that change would have almost no impact on them.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:06PM (#32527332)

    I thought this was just a one-day thing they were doing to show they're aware of the oilpocalypse. Bing has pretty pictures but I don't actually use it for anything. As Stephen Colbert said "Bing is the best search engine. I know because I googled it."

  • When I look at a great photograph, I have an emotional response. It's certainly pleasant when I am at a photo exhibit on the weekend but when I'm just searching for documentation on a jquery plugin it's simply distracting and breaks my concentration.

  • by rm999 (775449) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:08PM (#32527362)

    You know something has gone seriously wrong in your company when your employees are ripping off Microsoft's ideas.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      Perhaps they weren't "ripping off" Microsoft, but gathering data to show that it is a bad idea.

      Apparently, they didn't even need to gather a full 24 hours worth of data.

    • by welcher (850511) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:38PM (#32527868)
      But the whole google search sidebar was ripped off from Bing and seems to be very successful. You'd be in far more trouble if you refused to consider an idea just because it came from a place you didn't like.
  • Vocal (Score:5, Informative)

    by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:08PM (#32527372) Homepage

    Many, many folks (including myself) got quite vocal about it on the Google Support forums:
    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Web+Search/label?lid=54fe34ede196c261&hl=en [google.com]

    It was entertaining to see the range of reactions during the last 12-14 hours.

    The most interesting take was from my dad who called me up and asked me if he had a virus or something, I can only imagine how most "normal" people reacted to this change today.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IronChef (164482)

      I'll have to check the forums to see if anyone has commented on the ominous warning presented when you try to select a photo:

      "Only select images that you have confirmed that you have the license to use."

  • by Gudeldar (705128) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:08PM (#32527376)
    I must be the only person on the whole internet who didn't really care about this. Why bother visiting the Google homepage anyway? I just search from Firefox's search box.
    • I must be the only person on the whole internet who didn't really care about this. Why bother visiting the Google homepage anyway? I just search from Firefox's search box.

      Anyone know if there is a way to make the search box default to "safe search off" without resorting to cookies?
      I know you can manually stuff a "&safe=off" in the URL - but can you make the firefox search box do it automatically for you?

    • by mattack2 (1165421) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:43PM (#32527948)

      I can't really give a rational reason, but I like going to the google page instead of using the search field.. (except when the horrid picture was there). I don't know, I guess part of it is that I'm used to it, and google loading also just shows me that my net connection is working. (At home I have to wireless routers, one as a bridge to another, for Tivos and my laptop -- I usually use the laptop connected to the other router to connect to the local Tivos.)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:46PM (#32527992)

      Google's homepage is the dial tone of the internet.

  • although it opened up a lot of jokes around the office about google/bing.
  • no fuss google url (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:09PM (#32527390)

    http://www.google.com/custom?hl=en&client=google-coop-np

    I use this uri no adds, no fuss, simple return of search results. The way it should be.

  • I actually liked it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EMR (13768) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:13PM (#32527448)

    I just wished it would have shown the background in the search results too:)

  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:13PM (#32527454) Homepage Journal

    See, it was all a plan - give us a day of "Google as Bing" and demonstrate with cold hard data that people don't like Bing's style and prefer Google. Shut up carpers among stockholders that were screaming "do something!" to respond to Bing grabbing 2 percent market share, AND wipe MS's nose it it.

    Yeah, that was the plan all along.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If life gives you marmals, make marmalade.

      The repercussions of being given mammals is terrifying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikael_j (106439)

      That's actually a very common IT/software dev reaction to marketing decisions, "Fine, we'll spend three weeks building this feature and make sure to make it log everything just so we can get them to realize that it's pointless".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oakgrove (845019)
      At the risk of redundancy, this was how I interpreted the experiment too. The fact that if any Googlers stray to Bing after this, the first thing they will be reminded of is the hated Google Image day and instantly be turned off. Brilliantly played.
  • I didn't like it, but i could tolerate it. What I cannot stand is the sidebar. Why the fsck would I use that when the links at the top already do the same thing but better/without clutter?

  • Coke had the #1 product in its market segment. Unsatisfied with this, they formulated New Coke, which was practically a tribute to the #2 product in its class: Pepsi.

    Turns out, people chose Coke over Pepsi because they actually preferred Coke over Pepsi, and not because of , say, the bottle shape or the name.

    So then they scrapped New Coke and nobody missed it.

  • I guess the fact that 'remove Google background' was the seventh most searched for phrase today might have had something to do with it."

    So people were searching for 'remove Google background'' from the very page that had the 'remove Google background'' link on it? There goes a little more of my faith in humanity.

  • Actually it's not like it's better to have a background, or worse. It's just different. People find change jarring.

    It's all perfectly natural that people want Google the way it always used to be... What I find amusing is the people going into length explanations about why a background image is such a terrible thing.

    It's the New Coke thing again. In blind tasting, people preferred New Coke. When it was actually sold as something different, people hated it.
  • by aengblom (123492) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:41PM (#32527904) Homepage

    Update June 10, 11:31AM: Last week, we launched the ability to set an image of users’ choosing as the background for the Google homepage. Today, we ran a special “doodle” that showcased this functionality by featuring a series of images as the background for our homepage. We had planned to run an explanation of the showcase alongside it—in the form of a link on our homepage. 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. We appreciate your feedback and patience as we experiment and iterate.

    Posted by Marissa Mayer, VP Search Products & User Experience

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