Google’s homepage has been a stark white page for basically ever, with little more than a search box and a few buttons to get users to a search results page as fast as possible. Yesterday, a report from The Guardian claimed this would be changing, and Google would be adding a “news feed” to “Google.com.” The Google app on mobile devices has long had a news feed—originally introduced as “Google Now”—and the report claims a similar interface is coming to the desktop.
The crux of The Guardian‘s report says, “The feed of personalised information, which has been a mainstay of Google’s mobile apps for Android and iOS since 2012… will become part of the main desktop experience in the near future, the Guardian understands.” But there are a few aspects of the report that make me question its authenticity.
First, the report pulls quotes and images from Google’s July 19 blog post about news feed upgrades, but Google’s post was only speaking about the mobile site and apps, and The Guardian‘s report doesn’t make that clear. Second, the report contains an error in the title and lede: “Google to radically change homepage for first time since 1996,” the report reads. “Google’s famously simple homepage with its logo and single search box on a white background is set to undergo a radical change for the first time since its launch in 1996, with the addition of Google’s interest and news-based feed.”
“Google” did not exist in 1996—either as a company or a search engine name. Google only officially incorporated as a company in 1998, and according to Google’s official company timeline, the “Google” name wasn’t even thought of until 1997.
We shot Google PR a question about the report, and the company denied the desktop site was getting a revamp.
Thanks for reaching out. Confirming that later this year, we hope to roll some version of the feed experience to Google.com on the mobile web. However, the design and functionality are still completely unconfirmed as this is still in testing phases.
To be clear, we have no plans for desktop.
The problem I have with shooting the report down and moving on is that a move like this makes a ton of sense. As scary as a change to the iconic Google homepage might seem, does anyone use it anymore? With search functionality built right into Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and every other browser, there is little reason for desktop users to visit the blank Google.com homepage. Even Google’s own browser doesn’t use Google.com as the homepage. Chrome’s New Tab Page is modeled after the Google.com layout, but the addition of favorite sites means the browser pulls the layout code for it locally, not from the Web.
The addition of Google’s machine learning news feed could make Google.com a useful destination again, instead of a splash screen in between you and your search results page.
It almost seems inevitable that Google’s mobile news feed will pop up on the desktop somewhere. In 2014 Google briefly integrated the Google Now news feed into desktop Chrome via the notification panel, but the project died when Google killed Chrome’s notification panel in 2015. Google also used to have a product called iGoogle, which was exactly this idea—a combination of the Google Search page and customizable news, weather, and widgets. iGoogle died because no one in Google wanted to maintain it, but with Google’s machine-learning chops today, something like iGoogle could be more customized and useful than ever. It was a good idea then; it’s surely a good idea now, right?