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Google Background Images Are Going Away, People Not Happy

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Google Background Images Are Going Away, People Not Happy
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Google has been shutting down services like crazy since Larry Page took the reins as CEO last year. Some are killed with little noise. Others are killed with a great deal of backlash. Remember Super Poke Pets?

People using background images on their Google homepages are about to experience a big loss, and some are going so far as to say they’ll be changing their homepages or even changing their primary search engines. Did you use background images on your Google homepage? How will you proceed? Let us know in the comments.

Google announced in September that users would soon no longer be able to upload pictures with Classic Plus, which had let them upload or select images to use as a background on Google.com. The company said at the time that this would begin on October 16, and that the service would be completely turned off in November.

Now, people using background images have been getting the following message, with an exact date:

Background images are going away on November 16, 2012

Thank you for using background images. As we build a more streamlined Google Search page for everyone, we’ll no longer be able to support customization with background images. So you will no longer be able to see your background pictures starting November 16, 2012.

Click Remove to stop using a background image now. Your current background image and Picasa web albums will still be available to you.

So, next week, these users will be faced with new choices to make. Do they still want to use Google as their homepage? Do they want to use another search engine altogether? It just so happens that Google’s competitors are making some other new homepage-oriented changes. Bing, for example, launched a new download feature for their daily homepage images (which were arguably already one of the best parts about Bing):

Download Bing home page image

This all comes at a time, mind you, that Bing is making significant moves to increase its share of the search market anyway. In the UK, Google has already fallen to its smallest market share in years.

Yahoo should be launching a newly designed version of its homepage pretty soon:

Yahoo Homepage Redesign
Image via All Things D

Earlier this week, Google users began taking to reddit to vent their frustrations. At one point, the top post in the Google subreddit was: “Google, for the first time ever, you disappoint me,” which was about the notification. This was followed by:

The Google search page is discontinuing support for background images. I use a black background, because I hate being assaulted by a bright screen. So, I’m gonna use this instead. …easier than a greasemonkey script. (ca.blackle.com)

Another reddit user commented, “As you may or may not know, Google is set to drop background personalization on the main search page for people with Google accounts. I can’t figure out why (although I would like to know), but I can say that the personalization was a bit more than having a cool/cute picture when I googled. While I like the Google branding, my eyes just can’t stand the bright white page. The personalization allowed me to put a very simple black picture, and thus saving my eyes. What are your opinions on the subject?”

Another user responded, suggesting Stylish (Chrome / Firefox which lets you install themes and skins for Google and Facebook.

Earlier this year, Google also upset a number of users when it announced that it would shut down iGoogle, its personalized homepage product.

Pissing off users by shutting down products is something that Google seems to be doing more and more of in recent years. Why is that? Well, we’ve heard Page’s spiel about corporate focus in the past. This past week, Google’s Matt Cutts took a shot at explaining it himself. While he was not talking about the Google homepage, specifically, his comments were interesting (though unofficial).

“In my experience, Google is pretty good about trying to explore the space. We want to try out new things. Unless you’re trying things out – like if you’re trying to ski, and you never fall – then you’re not really pushing yourself hard enough,” says Cutts. “So we do try out a bunch of different ideas. At the same time, some of those ideas are not going to work out.”

When you can see that a particular project is “not going to succeed,” he says, it might be time to put those resources (machines or engineers) into a different project. Sometimes, he says, something just doesn’t get enough traction over time.

“It can also be the case that maybe you build a product, and then the internal infrastructure that we use changes over time…evolves,” he says. “I like to joke that the half life of code at Google is about six months. If you wait six months and go back to a particular section of code, like half of it will have changed. So there’s a lot of stuff going on internally under the hood to make our systems better at Google, but if you happen to fork off, and you’re on a strange little evolutionary path, so to speak, and then after a while people are like, ‘Oh, that is three generations behind our current technology, and we don’t even know how to get back to where we were before,’ then sometimes it’s easier to think about shutting down that project or rewriting it with newer technology or folding that functionality into a different thing.”

“It’s not malice,” Cutts says.

I don’t know if the explanation will make users feel any better about not being able to use Google they way they want to anymore, but at least it’s something.

Interestingly, Google’s homepage doodles, as Google showed this past week, can provide for good opportunities for Google to promote its products like Google Shopping (product listing ads), Google Books and the Knowledge Graph.

Do you care about Google homepage background images? Are you satisfied with Matt’s explanation about why Google shuts down products? Share your thoughts in the comments.

lead image via eltictac (reddit)

Google Background Images Are Going Away, People Not Happy
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