Make Google Look More Like Bing (Whether You Want to Or Not)

Last Updated Jun 11, 2010 9:23 AM EDT

My wife has switched completely from Google to Bing. Why? She likes the search results, of course. She prefers certain aspects of Bing to Google, such as the visual search and wide array of Map Apps in Bing Maps. That's all good. But her favorite feature? This might sound silly, but it's the photo of the day, which makes Bing feel vibrant and exciting.

In comparison, Google's plain white page -- daringly minimalist when it debuted many years ago -- now feels old and boring. Apparently, the folks at Google felt the same way -- now it comes with customizable photos.

Last week, Google quietly rolled out a way to customize its home page with images, not entirely unlike Bing. Now, when you visit Google, you'll see a link to wallpaper the Google homepage. In fact, as of yesterday, Google is now automatically adding a background image to its page, which you can change if you want to. (The link to do this is hiding in the lower left corner of the browser window.)

If you're signed in, you can choose to add a photo from your own PC, from your Picasa Web album (if you have one), from a public gallery of photos, or to choose from a set of "editor's picks."

Truthfully, none of the photos I've seen from Google come even close to as compelling as what Bing delivers every day. It's like the difference between visiting a 5-star restaurant or eating at the buffet diner at the mall; you might have more choices at the buffet, but, well, it's still a buffet at the mall.

To be clear, Google is the one delivering the mall restaurant experience, and it's not attractive.

What I can't find is a way to strip out the photo and return to a plain white background. Which, honestly, I prefer to the background photos I've already seen from Google.

Nonetheless, Google has taken a stab at brightening up their home page by borrowing from Microsoft's play book. Interesting times.

UPDATE: As of this morning, June 11, Google is mercifully back to a plain white background, with just an option to select one of their hideous photos.