Yesterday Google did away with their ultra clean home page to showcase their new “feature”, background images. Not surprisingly there was a major uproar from some of their users, myself being one of them. At the time I could not believe that they would betray me like that after all of the times I have stuck up for them. I realize this is totally irrational since they have no idea who I am but it still stung.
Most of the comments around the web where based on the idea that they were trying to copy Bing which unfortunately, for Google, is probably the right assumption. Which proves that Google is feeling the heat from Microsoft’s new search engine. What I find hard to believe though, is that no one at Google realized that this would cause such an uproar. I mean seriously Google’s brand from the beginning has been based around their sparse landing page.
So for me at least, when I first saw this background image I was horrified. My first thought was, “will these guys ever learn that they need to let me opt into these changes”. I realize that they own the site and that they can do whatever they want but after hearing that they tried 60 shades of blue before making a decision it was kind of shocking to see that they would make this drastic of a change on a whim. So anyway as I was horrified I just wanted to see a link that would let me go back to the normal page but I found nothing only a link that would allow me to change the image that appeared. I did figure out I could change it to all white but this did not satisfy my longing for the old page. It was at that point that I realized how important brand is. That page had become so ingrained in me that I actually felt a little uncomfortable not being able to have it. It was the first time I have ever doubted Google’s decision making.
Luckily for me and what appears to be many Google users they decided to cut the trial short. Marissa Mayer claimed in a blog post that it was due to a bug but I am fairly sure that this decision was based on the fact that so many people were pissed off about the change, at least I hope this is why they cut it short. If I am right about this then kudos to google for listening and knowing when to call a spade a spade. If I am wrong and it was a bug then goolge needs to start listening a little bit better.
The other way of thinking of this is that Google just totally reaffirmed that the sparse home page is money. Now at the risk of giving them way to much credit could this have been a way for them to prove that the minimalist approach is in fact what users want. I am not sold on this idea but even if this was not their intention they must realize the side benifit of this failed experiment.
Now after the initial shock has worn off I have been trying out a few of my images which are on picassa as backgrounds and I have found that I kind of like the option. So for me this just reinforces the methodology of opt in rather than opt out. Now this will not cause me to stop using any of the Google services I use but it does remind me that they can do whatever they want whenever they want so I should keep everything backed up.