More about this on John Battelle's blog
An example of a personalised Google home page. .
Sydney Morning Herald
March 20, 2007 - 2:29PM
Jazzing up its famously plain website, Google is offering a new option that places its internet search box in panoramic settings that change with the time of day and the weather.
The colourful graphics will be unveiled on Tuesday.
While most of Google's users remain content seeing little more than the company logo and the search box that has anchored its home page for nearly a decade, millions of others have created log-ins that enable them to select from a variety of features that appear with each visit.
The features, introduced nearly two years ago, include stock quotes, local weather and news headlines.
Google's new package of decorations, also known as "skins", are designed to make the home page feel even more homey, said Marissa Mayer, the company's vice president of search products and user experience.
"Google has become the doorway to the internet for a lot of people, so we want to make (the site) feel more like an online living room," Mayer said.
"We feel we are personalising things in a very tasteful and useable way."
Rival Yahoo Inc already has been experimenting with a broader selection of decorative themes as part of an upgrade of its "MyYahoo" service.
"This is a much bigger step for Google because they have always prided themselves on their plain white pages," said Dan Cohen, who worked on the personalisation efforts at both Google and Yahoo before recently becoming chief executive of Pageflakes Ltd, a startup that customises Web pages.
The use of more graphics illustrates Google's evolution from a once-pure internet search engine into an all-purpose website that offers email, news, photo sharing, instant messaging, shopping and mapping services.
The diversification over the past five years has raised worries that Google might be overextending itself, but the expansion has not hurt so far. Google more than doubled its profit to $US3.1 billion ($A3.88 billion) last year.
Reflecting its cautious approach, Google's first set of decorations consist of just six themes revolving mostly around landscapes. The settings include a Japanese tea garden, a beach, a city skyline and a bus stop. Google plans to introduce a few more themes each month and eventually may accept outside submissions, Mayer said.
Google has programmed the decorations to reflect what is happening in the outside world.
Users are asked to enter their post code so the digital drawings change from day to night and change with the weather.
The designs also will contain hidden surprises known as "Easter eggs" that will open up with an opportune click at the right time of the day, Mayer said.
She would not reveal any of the surprises.
It's not on my Google UK personalised homepage yet, but I jiggled it to google.com and - voila! I love the 'Sweet Dreams' theme and it took my UK location. let's see how it changes ...
If you click on the "select theme" link, up comes a box of several themes you can choose. The list includes; Classic, Beach, Bus Stop, City Scape, Sweet Dreams, Tea House and Seasonal Scape.
I selected Bus Stop, which looks like this:
Google then asks you to enter in your zip code so that the theme you selected with dynamically change based on your currently weather. I suspect that if its snowing, there may be snow around the theme, and so on.
Here it is - at twilight. It's been changing gradually all day...
and at midnight