iGoogle (the new name for Google Personalized Homepage), Gadget Maker and other localization features, shows that Google is ramping up its personalization efforts once again. Google Blogoscoped has excellent coverage from the Google Personalization Workshop, held yesterday at Mountain View for a select group of local bloggers. In this post we analyze these new features and compare them to Google's competition in both search and personalized homepages.The announcement last night of
As Read/WriteWeb noted in February and in our recent interview with Google's Matt Cutts, Google has been experimenting with personalization a lot this year. In regards to its personalized homepage, Google has always had far more gadgets available on its platform than live.com, Netvibes or Pageflakes. Currently there are over 25,000 different Google gadgets that you can put on your iGoogle page. Also according to Jessica Ewing at yesterday's event, product manager of the Google Personalized Homepage program, iGoogle was the fastest growing product at Google in 2006. iGoogle will now be available in 40 countries and 26 languages.
Here is some useful background to Google's personalization efforts, from the Google Blogoscoped post:
"Why does Google invest in a “personal Google” now? Sep [Kamvar, from Google] says it’s because of recent trends in content on the web, and recent technological advances in search algorithms. He suggests that Google wants to compute PageRank for every single person, so to speak. Sep explains that Google thinks of personalization in 3 parts:
- Search Your own stuff (like Google Desktop Search, Web History)
- Traditional (Pull) Search
- Push Search (like recommendations, iGoogle/ personalized homepage)"
So Google is obviously pushing ahead with personalization on multiple fronts. If you recall, Read/WriteWeb ran a poll at the beginning of this year asking which 'Search 2.0' approaches stand the best chance to beat Google? There were 635 respondants to that poll, and Personalized Search was the most popular result. So Google's current focus on personalization shows they have no intention of allowing alternative search engines to get too far ahead in personalized search!
One important thing to note is that Google goes out of its way to ensure that the user is still "in charge" of the personalization experience, no doubt to keep the privacy hounds at bay. Apart from needing to be logged into your Google Account, Google also makes personalization optional - including giving the user the ability to pause the Web History feature or remove specific items from the history. Users can also export their Web History as an RSS feed, which is important given that the ability to export one's data has long been a key issue for 'open Web' advocates.
Gadget Maker and Enhanced Localization
The new Gadget Maker product makes it very easy to create a new gadget, by "filling out a simple form". There are 7 templates available (quoting again from Google Blogoscoped):
- A Photo gadget (share a series of photos with others)
- GoogleGram gadget (allowing you to display a new greeting message to someone for every day for 7 days)
- Daily Me gadget (which will show what you’re currently doing, as well as quotes, what’s on your mind etc.)
- Personalized Countdown gadget
- A Personalized List (you can e.g. publish your own top ten list with this, Google says)
- YouTube video favorites gadget (pictured above, this gadget will let you create a YouTube channel to share)
- A “Free Form” gadget (an “all-purpose gadget that lets you meld text and image in any way,” Google says)
Example Gadget Maker form
Also launched yesterday was location-based personalized search results and a “My Community” service for the iGoogle directory. Both of these features integrate localization into search or directory results.
Google seems to be fighting a two-pronged battle with their personalization efforts - one is to keep themselves ahead of the alt search engine pack, and the other is to one-up Yahoo, Microsoft, Netvibes, Pageflakes and the other personalized start page contenders. On both counts, it is great to see Google putting in so much (visible) effort. Although I still think Google has much to do in terms of innovation in search personalization - take a look at Collarity or Hakia as just two examples of alt search engines with innovative personalization approaches. But the Google Account (which is where much of this personalization in Google products is coming from) and the new iGoogle features show that Google is pushing forward in search innovation - certainly they are not resting on their considerable laurels!
As for the personalized homepages, the smaller companies like Netvibes and Pageflakes are the leaders in innovation (IMHO). But all of the Big 3 have defining features that differentiate them - Google has many gadgets (including Gmail and GTalk) and nice theme options, Yahoo has excellent usability for mainstream users, and Microsoft has some promising gadgets too. Also note that iGoogle gives Google a great platform to integrate more with Google Desktop - enabling users to have gadgets running over both platforms (Web and desktop) and utilize things like My Community on the desktop. This will concern Microsoft in particular. So all up, Google is in a strong position with iGoogle and gadgets in general.
What do you think of Google's personalization push, so far?