Google Home Page: Now Featuring Your Pictures

Bing’s received plenty of praise for its home page that shows a different picture each day. How long until Google would copy it, some have wondered. Today, almost exactly a year since Bing launched, Google has rolled out its own feature that lets you put a picture on the Google home page.

In a blog post today, Google announced anyone can upload a picture that will be shown on the Google home page. You’ll only see your own picture, of course — everyone else will see pictures they’ve selected, if they’re using this option. You can also use pictures you’ve uploaded to Google’s Picasa photo sharing site or those within a public gallery at Picasa.

Don’t see how to add a photo yet? Then you’re like me, someone the feature hasn’t rolled out to yet. Google says this will appear for users throughout the world in the coming days. There should be a link to use it in the lower left-hand corner of the Google home page, when it has been enabled for you. It says “Change background image.”

Google Copies Bing

Back to Bing. Microsoft’s search engine launched a year ago this week, and one of the most striking things about it was that each day, Bing’s home page features a different photo. Over the past year, I’ve seen people praise this and ponder why Google doesn’t offer the same.

Of course, Google is loathe to ever do anything that seems like it is copying someone else. So, to me, today’s move allows Google to let people personalize with pictures yet claim they’re not playing “me too” against Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Bing Copied Microsoft’s Live Search

Microsoft actually offered a photo on its home page before Bing launched. The predecessor to Bing was called Live Search, and it offered a home page with a changing picture back in July 2008. It’s just that few people used Live Search. When Bing launched with great fanfare last year, many people discovered that Microsoft had a search engine for the first time and assumed that showing a picture on the home page was something new.

Microsoft Copied

Before Bing feels too smug about Google copying it, keep in mind that among the major search engines, was the first to offer the ability to “skin” a search engine’s home page, back in June 2007. That’s also when Ask rolled out its “3D” design, which was also copied by Microsoft and Google (see Meet The New Google Look & Its Colorful, Useful “Search Options” Column).

At the time Ask rolled out skins, it promised users could upload their own pictures. I’m not sure if they ever ultimately delivered on that promise. While they currently offer a gallery of themes, including a “My Themes” area, there seems to be no way to upload your own pictures.

And, before Ask feels too smug, Google offered its own version of skins, three months before Ask. But those themes only worked for Google’s “personalized home page” service — also known as iGoogle — rather than its regular home page.

Hey, doesn’t today’s move by Google letting people add pictures to their “regular” home page make that a personalized home page? Yes and no. The Google personalized home page remains a way to add widgets, gadgets and other features in addition to the Google search box. The regular home page, even when personalized with a picture, has no such widgets.

It’ll be interesting to see if:

  • Bing eventually offers an “upload your own picture” feature, copying Google
  • Google eventually offers a “rotate your picture” feature, effectively copying Bing

I’m betting on both to happen.

For related news, see Techmeme.

Postscript: I’ve now talked with Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, about the new feature. She tells me that it should be rolled out to 100% of the people in the US by tomorrow and across all languages and countries by next week.

Is this just Google copying Bing?

“The real motivation for this had to do with iGoogle,” Mayer said. “Some users really prefer the classic look but want a small amount of personalization, so this is a happy medium in between.” She added, “We think it has the same type of appeal that wallpaper does on your desktop or your phone.”

Will there be the ability to rotate photos automatically, in the future?

Mayer said that this might happen, that people will be able to make a Picasa Album — a collection of photos — that will be used to rotate on their Google home page.

Postscript: See Google Home Page Automatically Changing Background Image On June 10th & Official: Google Removes Auto-Background Feature.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: General | Google: iGoogle | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Bradd Libby

    “Google announced anyone can upload a picture that will be shown on the Google home page. You’ll only see your own picture, of course — everyone else will see pictures they’ve selected, if they’re using this option”

    Google is missing the point completely. At Bing, I get to see new and random things I haven’t seen before. I have no idea what I’ll see and can spend a few seconds learning about something new and interesting.

    If I want to look at my own photos, I can do so without having Google’s search bar plastered over them.

  • Clifford Bryan

    Interesting development. It looks as if the theories that Google did take a keen interest in the Bing launch are affirmed. Add in the agonizingly long and teasingly tedious Caffeine roll out and it looks like Google’s business strategy is fairly intangible. WE KEEP YOU COMING BACK FOR MORE. They don’t want loyal customers. That’s not good enough. They want addicted customers. Reminds me of many Asian video game makers business strategy. To webmasters it can be brutal at times. As long as you ride the Google wave your fine. Go against the grain and you run into problems.

  • littlekidjon

    You are missing the point about how Google is not copying Microsoft’s picture idea. Firstly you get to choose if you want to have a photo on the front page unlike for bing in which you have to have a photo.
    The second, main point is though, that it is the photo is what you decide, not the photo that Microsoft has chosen. Yes Microsoft’s idea was a good one, but Google have improved it to a degree that it is not the same. For ages you have been able to change your Google front page with iGoogle, the ability to have have custom searches and special front pages like for Firefox and Ubuntu. Now it may seem not that big of a difference, that you can choose the background image instead of been given a random photo, but this idea is most likely not to go against Bing, but because they are going to release Chrome OS soon and when you do most likely Google is going to be on the front page and therefore a background image on Google’s front page would be like a desktop image.

  • sewamobil

    thx for read the post above
    very informative and impressive

  • Gus Hardeux

    it’s true that the simplistic white background is what makes google, well google! However if you are a person that like to customize everything I have found to offer many HD Google Themes for free and also you can upload your own image to use as a Google Background! Very cool site and worth checking out

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