Google is Missing the Boat

Google is really botching this new background image feature they are copying from Bing. To see what I mean, here’s a screenshot of today’s Bing page:

Here’s how it works:

  • There’s a beautiful, high-resolution image of some place spectacular. (Today’s image is of Belem Tower, in Lisbon, Portugal.)
  • That image is chosen for you and changes once per day.
  • There are little boxes overlaid on the image that each provide a bit of trivia about that place or thing. (The box above says that “An earthquake destroyed 85 percent of this metropolis in 1775″.)
  • There is a link in each box that takes you to the results of a Bing search for more information about that factoid.
  • The images are sometimes appropriate to the date. (For example, on the 17th of May, there was an image of a road in Norway. And today, June 10, is Portugal Day, a Portuguese national holiday.)
  • There are boxes at the bottom-right that let you check out previous days, in case you missed them.

OK, now let’s look at Google’s stab at similar functionality. This is what I saw today (Note: I did not choose this image – it was just there when I visited Google.com):

What’s missing from this picture? First, there’s no information about what I’m looking at. Where is this place? Perhaps I would like to visit sometime, but I can’t find out where it is. I can’t find out anything about it, since there are no trivia boxes either.

Second, I personally must choose the image. (In this case, they’ve changed the background for me to opt me into the process. But to get the image to change, I must click ‘Change background image’ and then choose something else. To make things worse, I have to log into my Google account to do so.) Look, Google, if I want to look at high-res desktop images, I can do so on my own without having the Google search bar pasted over it.

The value that Bing’s background images bring is not that I get to look at a pretty picture. It’s that those images are like a little whack on the side of the head. I know when I visit that I’m going to see something that’s maybe new, maybe familiar, but either way, it will be random stimulation and potentially interesting.

My biggest suggestion to Bing is that the images should change more frequently. Why only one new image per day? I think it should change it every few hours, so that people have an inclination to visit Bing multiple times per day whenever they want to do a search. Currently, once I’ve done one search on Bing on a given day, I’m less inclined to go back again.

Maybe Google will get this right eventually, but for now, I’ll keep visiting Bing on a regular basis.

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