It wouldn't truly be "Google Personalization" week if we didn't talk about iGoogle. After all, it is the epitome of personalization for Google. It was their fastest growing product in 2006 and is available in 40 countries and 26 languages. Formerly known as Google Personalized Homepage or the abbreviated Google IG, iGoogle is a personalized AJAX start page.
Much like its close rivals Netvibes, Pageflakes, Protopage, you do not need an account to gain initial access to the default start page. Immediately, you are thrown into the mix. You are able to edit, drag, drop, add, delete, expand, or collapse to your heart's desire. But once you are set on using the service, you will need to register or log into your Google account to save your settings. Doing so will allow you to access this personalized start page from any computer once logged in.
Next, you may want to choose a theme and/or color palette for your page. Initial default content will fill your screen based on your location. In my case, CBC News headlines and TSN sports tidbits occupied the space, as I am located in Canada. Other popular "gadgets" (a.k.a. widgets) populate the rest of the space. These may include horoscope, weather, as well date and time, to name a few.
Specific content can be added via a URL or RSS feed. Google also offers a list of categories to choose from. A simple one-click system facilitates the process for new users. The categories include:
- Fun & Games
- New stuff
As a side note, I found a bit of bias toward Google content. In other words, it seemed that the YouTube and Gmail gadgets (among others) were more prominently positioned than some of the non-Google content.
Personalizing Your Page
Once you're satisfied with the content you've added, you can begin personalizing your page. You can move things around or delete any unwanted content. You can even edit individual gadgets. For example: if you are displaying a feed, you can customize it so that you only see the most recent item, or as many as the 9 most recent items.
Collapsing or expanding gadgets will provide better use of the page space. Doing so with the individual blog posts or news feeds is also a great way to catch up on the news and save time. However, some content providers do not provide full feeds. Others tack on ads at the end of full feeds to provide some incoming revenue.
With gadgets still in mind, iGoogle also:
- Provides recommendations to similar content.
- Enables you to learn more about the content source.
- Allows you to share with a friend.
You will also notice that Google makes excellent use of tabs. Think Firefox. You can create a tab based on a specific topic, area of interest, or category. These ensure that you will not need to scroll down your start page for hours in order to find a given piece of content. Subsequently, tabs can either be renamed, shared, or deleted.
AJAX start pages becoming very popular. Though iGoogle may lack some of the functionality and features of the space leaders mentioned above (most notably a more intuitive set-up process), I found the service loads and operates much faster. All in all, however, I was a bit disappointed by the overall service. I guess I've just come to
expect demand a lot from Google. This offering was simple and clean, but nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking. I commend them on a job well done, but expect bigger things in future iterations.