Winter in the Google-verse

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Seasonal decoration and localization have been discussion points around the SitePoint office of late. On one hand, what could be wrong with adding a little seasonal vibe to a site? A sprig of holly here, perhaps? A star there? You would have to be a total grinch to object, right?

The problem is whenever you ‘buddy up’ to part of your audience you can’t help but turn your back on another part of it. If you have a very defined niche audience, (i.e. gamers, metal heads, trekkies, hackers, etc), creating an ‘us vs. them’ vibe might be useful, but otherwise you probably need to be careful. Is the positive vibe you’re creating for the ‘us’s worth the small sense of alienation you may be creating for the ‘them’s?

After mulling over this question recently, we were interested this morning when Julian noted the playful polar bears cheekily preparing snowballs on Google. A bit of color perhaps, but this appears on the Google.com.au version of the site, meaning they can be pretty sure their audience comes to them in shorts, a t-shirt and sunscreen.

At a quick glance, the same goes for Google NZ, Google South Africa and Google Argentina, all also experiencing the full brunt of summer.

I know that weather prediction can be a dubious science at times, but the whole ‘summer/winter northern/southern hemisphere’ thing had been given the scientific ‘thumbs up’ last I heard ;)

But hey, cheeky polar bears are cute, I guess.

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  • carlosbernal

    Sounds PC to me.

    Why the extreme concern of ‘alienating’ some? Who? If you take it further maybe we should consider if some don

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Oops I said Christmas, should I have said ‘Winter Holiday’?

    Carlos, the only snow I’ve ever seen has been in August/September.

    I think ‘extreme concern’ would be overstating it (I think I used the term ‘small sense of alienation’).

    It sounds like the ‘ideal’ of a snowy winter Christmas actually means something to you — which is cool.

    But other than being a concept seen in movies, that ideal means nothing to almost anyone using those portals — it just seems to be going out of it’s way to say ‘not really from here’. I’m not sure that’s useful.

    The Argentinian Google is smart enough to speak spanish to it’s audience. Yahoo AU displays a beachy theme — what’s the difference?

  • http://www.dkdesignco.com ant1832

    I think this may be something for companies like google who have such a huge audience to consider. I can imagine that some might not understand why there is snow on the google logo.

    For people who’s guests are mainly from the same country as them, I don’t see a problem with a theme that matches the majority of the people. Even though I’m from Arizona I know that snow and xmas are synonymous. So I don’t have a problem with it.

  • http://www.visualresponse.nl Herr_Tais

    I agree with ant1832

  • http://www.aaronwitherow.co.uk arano

    The chances of people getting snow over christmas for anyone are pretty slim, nevermind seeing a polar bear !

    That image that google has, is an ideal of christmas, its what everyone thinks christmas should be and not the reality for almost anyone is. I live in Northern Ireland and its freezing at the moment, but snow, no chance, slanty rain maybe !

    The point is no matter where in the world you are, whether it is rain or sun, that vision of christmas does not happen except for a small proportion of people, alienating people should not be a problem.

  • Steve Lawrence

    Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t the Aussies spray fake snow around the place during Christmas?

    Do we really want to remove all personalisation of things on the web though? Things are standardised enough as it is, we need a little added flavour just to beat the tedium.

    Extrapolate this and we’ll end up celebrating Winterval and the weather will be a banned topic on the web.

    Oh, and don’t mention the time of day, that was banned due to the discovery of time-zones. ;)

  • http://www.studiox-designs.org/ SniperX

    I had to read this several times to try and figure exactly what the author’s point was, or indeed, if there was a point at all.

    What does the weather have to do with it? The Christmas period is still governed by a date, not a weather type.

    I’ve sat here trying to figure out exactly how this could alienate anyone and I have to say, you’ve got me beaten. Were you, by chance, struggling for topics to write about?

  • Richard Thomas

    Coke has its X-mas commercials with the polar bears, always playing in the snow and such. So it seems multiple huge worldwide companys feel the same way.

  • mbstuart

    Little changes like seasonal Google logos are one of the things that make Google stand out from the crowd. It lets you know that there are real people behind the curtain. I’d say anyone that gets alienated by this set out to be alienated in the first place.

    Also – if I remember correctly from last year – the snow ball fight progresses day by day!

  • craig34

    I think that it would be nice to see a Christmas tree. Of course, in this day and age, that’s never gonna happen. Heck, I wouldn’t care if you threw in a Star of David, perhaps other relics from other religions?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com AlexW

    Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t the Aussies spray fake snow around the place during Christmas?

    Although I can’t argue I’ve never seen fake snow here, walking the length of Smith St (a long commercial strip) I didn’t see any — so it’s certainly not central to the experience.

    My point is ‘Google.COM’ gets an impossibly wide global audience and so it has ‘play the numbers’.

    But by waiting till the Australian mid-Summer to break out a winter theme on it’s AU portal, Google AU is actually bending over backwards to break it’s own illusion of ‘localness’.

    What does the weather have to do with it? The Christmas period is still governed by a date, not a weather type.

    SniperX — polar bears tossing snowballs doesn’t tap into any traditional Christmas theme that I’m aware of. Maybe I missed that movie but I would have thought they were a pretty clear allusion to winter.

  • http://www.RCNitroTalk.com WoodiE55

    I never knew this blog was here and man what a read for a first time user. The author is throwing a fit because a US based company is had changed their graphic to include a winter theme. So what they are world wide, Google is based out of the US and the last I looked outside it is winter HERE. I suppose Coke Cola is also wrong in their new commercials that are playing around this time of year with god forbid Santa Clause **gasp**.

    After reading this article it makes me wonder when I can expect to see SitePoint start rallying to have any mention of Christmas or any other related word removed from the public.

    -Michael

  • http://www.guestbookz.com Darren884

    Whats wrong with a little holiday cheer! >:(

  • Simon

    Speaking as an Australian, sitting here in shorts, at 7pm at night and the temperature is still 85(F)/27(C) degrees. Way to hot for polar bears – even the koala bears have taken off their coats…

    After what seems like a week of polar bear cartoons I don’t feel alienated – just a little aggravated. Google.com.au can and *do* customise the image for us Aussies. On Australia day they had a special image incorporating the Australian Flag, and on other days as well. The reason we Australians are so sensitive to the

  • http://www.benwarren.co.uk benji

    hehe … one of the most bizzarre posts i’ve seen at a sitepoint blog. I’m sure no Aussies are offended by western snow.

    Besides, I think the likelihood of me seeing any polar bears walking through the streets of London is well … slim.

  • alex

    I agree with mbstuart, the little seasonal illustrations make Google stand out from the rest. Their home page is the first thing I see everyday when I turn on my computer, and I’m quite thankful since those always bring a smile to my face (remember the Olympic series?). And honestly, who could possible be alienated by such nice bears?

  • the.decoy

    Well, I disagree with arano, who said that the google image is what everyone wants Christmas to be. For example, personally, it’s not my vision of an ideal Christmas, being freezing and not able to leave home because of the cold. There are many people who spend their Christmas day on beaches.

    However, while it’s true that snow is almost a Christmas symbol (or else Santa Claus wouldn’t be in winter outfit), it is still strange for people who are in summer to see a winter theme. Let me say first, though, that I don’t think that it goes down to the alienation of people, it’s just “weird”. After all, the association of winter to Christmas has been so globalized that people from the southern hemisphere always see winter-related images in Christmas.

    Putting aside everything about companies, where they came from and snow being a Christmas symbol, wouldn’t it be odd if you were browsing through an updated webpage in the middle of summer and you saw a winter theme with snow and polar bears?

    Sure, Google is an US company, I understand why they put the winter theme and all, but they also have the capability of having unique pages for each location. It’s not mandatory, but it would be more interesting to give winter people a winter theme and summer people a summer theme, since they have the possibility to do so. Now, Coke can’t really do that, because the polar bear drinking Coke is one of “Coke’s Christmas symbol”, so they transmit commercials with polar bears even though we’re in summer. Polar bears having a snowball fight isn’t Google’s symbol and I see no reason why they can’t change it.

    From the comments I’ve read, a few people seem to be getting the impression that the article is some sort of anti-Christmas post. How are you seeing that? It’s not anti-‘Google Doodle’ either – I really like Google’s logo changes, too.

    Another thing I noticed was that Google Doodle has four winter themes and one summer theme (although a winter theme and the summer theme are olympic). Perhaps Google just likes cold? :)

  • http://www.netondas.com netondas.com

    Christmas = Snow!

  • Kimmi

    Hi from Australia, today I was expecting to see an Australian flag, maybe the odd koala, etc on Google.com.au… seeing as it’s Australia Day. Unfortunately… I was too optimistic… okay well goodnight it’s currently 12:12am on the 26th of January here… bye!…

    By the way… those polar bears are so cute! As for snow on Christmas, it’s actually happened here in Australia, it just isn’t a common thing, and definitely not in Queensland or the Northern Territory. In Victoria and Tasmania it does get colder though. Here in Canberra we had a hot Christmas played cricket and went swimming, no polar bears in the pool either :-(