Google takes a page from Bing's look book

On June 3, Google did something that really surprised me. The company that's made its reputation on home-page minimalism announced it was going to allow users to turn the sacred home page into something very Bing-like.

Microsoft and Google have been engaged in a search tit-for-tat for the past year. One shows visual search; the other tries to one-up its competitor. One talks up going beyond the 10 blue links; so does the other.

On June 3, however, Google did something that really surprised me. The company that's made its reputation on home-page minimalism announced it was going to start allowing users to change the Google.com background by adding their own customized photos from their PCs and/or Picasa. Google will begin phasing in the new customization option in the U.S. first, and extend it internationally in the coming days, officials said.

Bing, which turned one-year-old today, has been offering users different Microsoft-selected photo backgrounds each day. The Bing background photo also includes a number of hotlinks inside the photo, allowing users to obtain more information via Bing on the subject of each day's photo selection.

Can you see the headlines if MIcrosoft had decided to modify the Bing home page and make it more like Google's (and like the original WIndows Live Search)? "Microsoft copies Google!" "Get out your photocopiers (again) Redmond!" The reaction to Google's announcement has been quite subdued in comparison....