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Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which has been testing a new look for its search pages for nearly six months now, is finally rolling out the design. The most dramatic change: A side panel that shows up by default and lets users sort results by categories like “news” and “blogs” and by the newness of a page. That functionality previously existed but users had to click on a “Show options” link to get to it. Other tweaks include changes to the “color palette” and logo, although finding the updates is a bit like a Highlights‘ “spot the difference” game.”
Looking at what Google is calling “a spring metamorphosis,” it’s hard not to think that the company was inspired by Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which both now feature left hand columns on their own results pages by default. The Google move, therefore, while late, ensures that those two search engines will no longer be able to differentiate themselves with that design.