Advertisements now appear on the home page of a Google Inc. Internet search engine, thus ending the company's nearly decade-long tradition of an ad-free front page.
They are not flashy, "graphical doodads and popping up all over," as Google promised in late December.
Rather, Google's Web site in Belarus has the more sedate approach of three sponsored links taking up an inch-wide column of the right-hand side of the Web browser.
This is a sign of the new era for Google, one in which a portion of its once-pristine front page will be sold to advertisers a pixel at a time, as Internet search competitors Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN now do.
There are more advertising-related changes to come, Google indicates, including small-size ads with images that are also expected to appear soon. Banner and other kinds of larger-scale ads may soon also appear on the Web sites hosting Google's video and picture search.
The new look of Google's front pages may be attributed, in part, to compromises Google is rumored to have made recently in order to keep America Online Inc. from defecting to rival Microsoft Corp.
The deal was the result of a big battle for Google, perhaps its biggest year.
Google's 3-year-old relationship with AOL, which is the online unit of entertainment, media and communications conglomerate Time Warner Inc., now accounts for about a tenth of Google's annual revenues.
As part of a new deal between the two companies, Google will invest $1 billion into AOL, and end up owning a 5 percent share.
Google is also providing AOL with $300 million in credit to be used toward purchasing search-related ads
There's also a deepened advertising relationship to help AOL boost its presence through Google's tangle of Web sites.
A Google representative didn't immediately respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.
A recent official Google Weblog about the AOL deal ties the new look directly to tradition-breaking.
"We're looking forward to what AOL can help us do for you, and believe that our new agreement with them will only create a better experience for you in 2006 and beyond," wrote Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products & User Experience.
A fireworks maker, flower vendor and media company spotted Tuesday on the Belarusian front page are among the first outside companies to grace Google's front page.
In the past, Google has dotted the expanse of white space with ads, but only to promote its own desktop toolbar search feature.
Google front pages in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian were still ad-free as of Tuesday.
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