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Google Interactive Logos Spark Mystery and Debate

Anyone visiting the Google homepage this morning will have been greeted by another interactive Google logo; the third in recent months from the search giant. The interactive logo is apparant as soon as you visit the site; beginning as a collection of coloured balls which can be manipulated and moved by using the mouse, settling down to form the Google logo if left untouched.

Normally, Google replaces its logo for a day to mark some historical, cultural or business milestone. In this case however, there seems to be no immediately apparant reason for the change, with Google not giving any indication as to the meaning of it. This has sparked widespread debate over the possible reasons for the logo, with Google’s spokesman being apparantly unavailable for comment.

It’s not just the motivation behind the switch that’s interesting people however; with recent claims that Google’s interactive logos waste a huge amount of electricity and lower the performance of your computer. These claims have come from Google’s second interactive logo, generally known as the Buckeyball logo.

The logo replaces the second ‘o’ in Google with a buckeyball (a carbon form composed of 60 atoms), which could then be spun by users with their mouse. The design however caused widespread complaints from users, as hundreds claimed that the interactive piece of javascript was consuming huge percentages of their CPU, in some cases 100%.

Users tested the Google homepage on numerous different machines, finding on average that the logo consumed 100% of the CPU running Windows XP and Firefox, crashing most people’s system. Also tested on Mac’s and with numerous different browsers, CPU usage dropped to 95% with IE7 and 65% withOpera and Google Chrome.

Whilst this was an annoyance to consumers (many of whom admitted to switching to alternative search engines for the day), what was far more concerning was a claim from an American user who measured the extra electricity usage when Google’s buckeyball logo was running. He found that his household electricity monitor displayed a 15-20 watt increase when Google’s homepage was open in the browser, dropping by the same amount when he navigated to a different page.

Considering the number of people likely to have visited Google’s homepage on that day, the electricity wasted by Google’s interactive logo would appear to be monumental.

Despite complaints from users all over the World however, Google appear to have ignored these issues and developed an even more complicated interactive logo. A quick look at my CPU performance demonstrates the effect just having the homepage open has:

As you can see from the box on the far left, one of my four processors was struggling to cope with the logo. It’s worth noting that this is on a brand new quad-core machine with 4GB ram, yet it’s still using around 30% of my CPU. On older or less capable machines, this could well end up with a crashed system or an overheating laptop.

It will be interesting to see whether Google continue with their interactive logos, given that all three have now recieved huge volumes of complaints from users (the Google Pacman logo was said to have wasted millions of hours on the day it was running). So far, they seem to be ignoring users; a dangerous thing to do when Google’s competitors are pushing increasingly harder to win over internet users. With Yahoo! and Bing now working in partnership on their future search efforts, it could be an interesting few months in the fight for market share.


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