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6/2/2010
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Google Lets Users Customize Search Page

Internet users can now repaint Google's white search page with the background image of their choice.

Broadening its commitment to personalization and one-upping Microsoft's Bing, Google on Wednesday began allowing users to replace its famously white search page background with an image of their choosing.

Bing features a different background image every day, chosen by Microsoft.

Google is letting users themselves choose the background image on their search pages.




Image Gallery: The Top 16 Google Services
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
"Today, we're introducing a new feature that brings a whole new level of personalization to Google by letting you add a favorite photo or image to the background of the Google homepage," said Marissa Mayer, Google VP of search and user experience, in a blog post. "You can choose a photo from your computer, your own Picasa Web Album or a public gallery hosted by Picasa which includes a selection of beautiful photos."

For those who fear Google's minimalist aesthetic will disappear, don't worry: You can still use the classic Google Search page whenever you wish.

Google's decision to allow the customization of its search page might seem at odds with its commitment to speed -- two years ago Google resisted adding a privacy link to its search page because every character added to the page means a slightly longer load time and slightly less user happiness.

But Google has found a way to support search page personalization without affecting page load time.

"The homepage does not load any slower," said a Google spokesperson via e-mail. "With or without a background image, the Google search elements show as quickly as before, allowing users to search just as quickly as without the new feature. We make this possible by post-loading the photo -- we load the search elements first and then load the picture into your browser cache and show it as soon as it is available. Meanwhile you can already perform your search."

Mayer said that Google is rolling out search page customization across the U.S. over the next few days. Users for whom this feature has been enabled will see a link on the bottom left-hand side of the Google search page.

At Mayer's urging, Google users have begun publishing images of their customized search pages via Twitter, in conjunction with the hashtag #myGooglepage.

It won't be long before we see a screenshot of Bing as a Google background image.

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