Google users who have out-of-date Web browsers have begun to encounter the consequences of a policy decision that the Web search giant made in 2011.
On the Google user forums over the weekend, a number of contributors, particularly those using older versions of Opera, began to notice that the Google homepage had regressed back to an earlier version.
One contributor, DJSigma, said, "If I go to the Google homepage, I get served the old version of the site. If I search for something, the results show up in the current look. However, if I then try and type something into the search box again, Google search doesn't work at all. I have to go back to the homepage every time to do a new search."
There was, in fact, no fault. Since 2011, Google has had a policy of supporting only the latest version of any given Web browser and the one immediately previous to that. The last time this became a major issue was with the release of Internet Explorer 11 (IE11), after Google ceased support for Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).
This time, however, it appears that the difference has been made more tangible, with the search Web page actually turning back to its styling at the time of the announcement, complete with a black menu bar across the top.
Google engineer Nealem confirmed: "Thanks for the reports. I want to assure you this isn't a bug, it's working as intended. We're continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers. We encourage everyone to make the free upgrade to modern browsers - they're more secure and provide a better Web experience overall."
Some of the complainants had been using Opera 12, the last edition before it switched to the Chromium browser engine, but despite protestations that this is the newest version of a different browser, they appear to be in the same boat as those on IE9 and older versions of Safari.
Because Google Chrome is almost impossible not to update, it appeared that the problem was biased toward not affecting Chrome users, but in fact, there was no bias, just the passing of Father Time.
Sadly, this comes as cold comfort to DJSigma, who said, "If my browser is now unsupported and there's no way around that, I'll begrudgingly switch to using Bing instead as my main search site."
We've asked Google if anything has been upgraded in the search engine to necessitate the rollback, but it has declined to comment.