June 10, 2010, 1:51 PM — Google has apparently dropped its default display of background pictures in the wake of widespread public confusion and condemnation. Ultimately, Google's publicity stunt appears to have given Microsoft's Bing search engine far more positive publicity than intended.
Microsoft executives told reporters they were "flattered" that Google displayed a look similar to Bing's. One Microsoft spokesperson even said Google used one of the same photographs once used by Bing.
Google had reportedly planned to display the pictures all day, in order to bring attention to that user option, but surprised Google users by ending the program early -- after only four hours, according to some reports.
The unannounced initiative prompted the posting of many blog posts and news stories detailing how to remove pictures, which was not obvious for users looking at the main page.
It also brought up widespread criticism. "Does Google Have Bing Envy?," asked The New York Times' Nick Bilton. "Been to Google lately? It's Bing!," wrote SeattlePI.com's Nick Eaton. "Google enrages users with 24 hours of imposed images," proclaimed the Inquirer's Rob Coppinger.
Even I weighed in, suggesting that the whole affair smacked of the "New Coke" fiasco from the 1980s.
In the end, however, it appears that Google decided to "enrage users" for only four hours.