When Google's famously Spartan search page gained a series of photographic backgrounds on Thursday, it did not go over well with users. It didn't take long for the search giant to return to its classic look.
The featured photos were intended to kick off Google's new background customization functionality, which the company announced last week. On Wednesday evening, Google said in a blog post that the photos would be featured on its homepage over the next 24 hours -- a temporary celebration. It turned out to be much more temporary than that.
According to comScore, which measures Internet traffic, Americans conducted 3 percent more online searches in January than in December. That's surprising, since assumptions are that people would do the most Web searching in December to find the perfect holiday gifts at the lowest price.
It's not at all surprising that the Google search engine hosted the majority of searches in January, totaling 65 percent of all searches. That's down 0.3 percent from Google-hosted searches in December, says comScore's most recent monthly report. Yahoo also lost 0.3 percent of search market share in January compared to December, but unlike Google it has been on a steady decline for months. In January it accounted for 17 percent of all searches.
"An astonishing amount of time is being wasted on investigating the amount of time being wasted on social networks," says The Economist in a special report that spends 20 pages proving the point.
Like the topic, the report covers a lot of ground and is less interesting for any coherent conclusion than for the range of commentary it encompasses, and some surprising facts. Ok, Facebook with 350 million users would be the world's third largest country, if it were a country. We knew that. But I liked the note that "Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet was greeted with much skepticism because managers assumed workers would use it to make lists of their fantasy football teams or their weekend shopping - which is exactly what they did and still do. But along the way, Excel has become an invaluable business tool."
Microsoft's Bing search engine went down for half an hour on Thursday. The outage is no doubt embarrassing for Microsoft as it tries to build up its share of the search market. But will the incident be anything more than a mild, short-lived embarrassment?
Beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, users couldn't access Bing. The cause, according to a post on the Bing blog by Satya Nadella, SVP of Microsoft's online services division, "was a configuration change during some internal testing that had unfortunate and unintended consequences."
Not that this will come as a surprise to anyone, but Google has been busy. While Microsoft and Yahoo were banging out a search deal that still needs regulatory approval -- and will take two years to fully implement -- Google was overhauling the infrastructure of its search engine.
Dubbed Caffeine, and available for beta-testing here, the new engine was announced late yesterday on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.
Now that it's finally happened, does anyone else feel like the search ad deal struck by Microsoft and Yahoo is a bit anticlimactic?
Not that there are any real surprises in the agreement announced this morning: Microsoft will provide Yahoo's search backbone, while Yahoo will be the heavy-lifter in sales. Bing will get a big boost in search volumes, while Yahoo gets a $500 million bump in operating income and some $200 million in cost-savings.