Faster Forward: Google exhibits Bing envy with background-photo binge

By Rob Pegoraro
Thursday, June 10, 2010; 5:00 PM

Google's home page looks a little different today--and not in a fun, productivity-destroying way.

Instead of a playable version of Pac-Man, the page is graced by a randomly chosen artsy background photo--part of a one-day feature Google is running to promote a new custom-background option that registered users can set for that page.

Users of Microsoft's Bing search engine should find the concept all too familiar--its artsy background photo, new every day, serves as a pleasant bonus feature. Microsoft employees did not miss the chance to have some fun with Google's form of flattery; one Twittered that "We've lost a background image, if found please return to ;)"

(It's too bad Microsoft didn't think to make Bing's homepage a blank white expanse for today.)

Many Google users sound displeased with the new window dressing--displeased in a way that makes you wonder how they'd react if, say, Google treated itself to dinner on their credit cards or ran over their pets. One irate individual e-mailed that she was "absolutely furious" for "forcing us to open a Google account to change or get rid of it!!" Fortunately, you don't have to do that. The ever-useful blog Lifehacker posted this simple workaround:

"Hit the "Change Background Image" link in the lower-left, head to the "Editor's Picks" section, then scroll to the bottom to find the familiar, entirely white 'theme.'"

Other people have suggested a different fix: Typing instead of the usual "" address, which will not only serve up the traditional blank home page but also encrypt your searches.

I don't mind today's Google page--but I'm so used to running Google searches through browser search boxes that I only visit that site's home page when there's some visual treat waiting. If you feel otherwise, let me know in the comments.

Update, 2:02 p.m.: And suddenly the background photos have vanished. Can I claim responsibility for making them go away?

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