Google Tests Black Links in Search Results but Receives Criticism

"We're not quite sure that black is the new blue," Google officials concede after testing the new links.

Google search results test

The general response to Google's move to test black links in search results instead of the usual blue is a reminder of why it's almost never a good idea to fix things that aren't broken.

Google this week, for reasons it hasn't fully explained, began testing the use of black links in search results for a small section of its users. In a statement, a Google spokesman described the test as one of many "small-scale experiments" that the company routinely conducts with the design of its search results pages.

The company did not specify whether the tests were limited to a specific geographic region and how many users might have seen the black links surface unexpectedly in their search results.

But several of them who did appeared to waste little time expressing their annoyance at the unannounced change.

"Google Search Results should be a blue color and not black color," an individual using the handle Bobby_Bill posted on the Google Search Help Forum. "I don't know why all of the sudden my Google Search Results color changed to black. My eyes do hurt from this and I will consider using Firefox and Bing if there is no answer to this question."

"I hope this is not the new default," another poster identified as Matthew Hawn said on the same forum. "I HATE it. Can we at least CHANGE the color?"

Some wondered whether their computers had been infected with a virus; others worried whether the sudden change was a sign that Google was watching their every move. For most though, the frustration appeared tied to the fact that black links made it harder for them to distinguish between pages they had already visited and those that they hadn't.

"I actually wouldn't care what color it is; the real issue for me is not having a different color for links I've already checked out," poster smeekerlowry said on Google's Help Forum. "That makes research a real problem."

A few of those commenting on the issue reported it as going away when conducting searches in incognito mode. It is only when people are actually signed into their Google accounts that the black links turned up in search results, the commenters said.

Google has so far not indicated whether it will continue testing the black links or abandon the effort in light of the criticism from users. But the company's brief statement on the issue suggests that Google recognizes the idea may have been a bad one. "We're not quite sure that black is the new blue," Google noted.

This is not the first time that Google has conducted tests on the color of links in search results. As The Guardian points out, the company in the past has drawn ridicule over a project dubbed "50 shades of blue" involving the use of links with subtly different shades of blue to find the shade that users are most likely to click on. Google later claimed that the company benefited from the experiment by nearly $200 million.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.