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Google is “experimenting” with changes after backlash over Search redesign

After making search ads look more like organic results, Google backtracks.

Google is “experimenting” with changes after backlash over Search redesign
[Photo: Charles/Unsplash]

Google is rethinking its latest search page redesign after critics said it made advertisements look too much like regular search results.

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The source of contention is Google’s addition of small icons, or favicons, to the left of each search result. Because the word “Ad” occupies the same space in Google’s sponsored listings, some observers (including The Verge’s Jon Porter and The Guardian’s Alex Hern) said it made regular results harder to distinguish at a glance.

In a statement on Twitter, Google now says it’s “experimenting” with how it displays favicons in desktop search. “Our early tests of the design for desktop were positive,” the company said. “But we appreciate the feedback, the trust people place in Google, and we’re dedicating to improving the experience.” For now, it looks like Google has removed the favicons from desktop searches outright, but the company says it may test alternative placements over the coming weeks.

Google has previously done a lot more to erode the boundary between ads and organic results. The company no longer uses different background colors for its ad section, for instance, and it has gradually changed the color of its “Ad” icon to blend in more with other page elements. While the introduction of favicons is a minor change by comparison, the backlash may be a sign of increasing concern over Google’s outsized power in the search business. (Case in point: Rival DuckDuckGo has used favicons across both organic results and ads without mass outcry.)

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