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Why Google Backed Down on Home Page Backgrounds

Why Google Backed Down on Home Page Backgrounds

Due to a bug, Google on Thursday cut short plans to have rotating artwork on the search engine's normally stark homepage for 24 hours.

Starting at just after midnight Eastern time, Google traded its usual white background for rotating photographs of the works of Dale Chihuly, Jeff Koons, Tom Otterness, Polly Apfelbaum, Kengo Kuma, Tord Boontje, and others.

The idea was to promote a personalization feature launched last week that let users choose their own background from photos on their computer, stored on Google's Picasa photo service, or from a free Picasa photo gallery set up by Google.

However, after less than 14 hours, Google decided to go back to its traditional homepage because of a "bug," Marissa Mayer, VP of search product and user experience at Google, said on Twitter.

"There was supposed to be a link explaining what was going on (only one day, etc.) due to a bug it wasn't showing," Mayer said.

Web companies offer personalization features, such as custom backgrounds, to differentiate themselves online. Google's latest promotion elicited a comment from employees of Microsoft, which has used background artwork on the homepage of its competing Bing search engine since the beginning.

"We've lost a background image, if found please return to Bing.com ;)" Microsoft Europe said in a tongue-in-cheek comment on Twitter.

"Imitation (however pale) is the sincerest form of flattery: a certain search engine put up the same pic (tulip fields) used on Bing long ago," Ashley Highfield, managing director of Microsoft's U.K. consumer division, said on Twitter.

In launching the customized background feature, Google had promised people who preferred the minimalist aesthetic that it would not go away. People could switch to the classic Google whenever they wish.


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