Google’s iGoogle home page service is no more. Despite protests from hordes of iGoogle users, the personalized home page vanished today, traveling to that great multi-colored Google place in the sky, leaving only a link that now redirects to Google's home page. And other personalized home pages might not be far behind.
iGoogle fell victim to one of the company's periodic round of service trimming, as Google general manager of global enterprise search Matt Eichner spelled out on Google’s official blog 16 months ago. At the time, Eichner explained that iGoogle was no longer necessary given new app-like interfaces within Google’s Chrome browser and the ChromeOS and Android platforms. The AJAX-based iGoogle used app-like widgets for users to organize and customize information on their iGoogle pages, and Google saw this as redundant.
“With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down,” Eichner wrote.
Another reason for the demise of iGoogle might be an unspoken one: the rise of social media platforms like Facebook have probably had a deleterious effect on iGoogle, too. ReadWrite founder Richard MacManus certainly thought so:
The main selling point of startpage was always the widgets, the mini web applications that users could add to their dashboards. Over the past couple of years, Facebook has become far and away the largest platform for mini web apps. Nearly every major web product these days has a Facebook Application version. A startpage widget is now often a second thought, if considered at all, for online businesses.
Google+, which wasn't yet officially released when MacManus wrote that article, would also fall into the category of personalized home page replacement.
You can extend this argument to the "appification" of the Internet on mobile as well. As user access to the Web gets chopped up into material displayed in apps or shortcuts to mobile web pages, there's less and less of a need for a personalized home page. The apps sitting on a smartphone or tablet have supplanted its purpose.
There Are Alternatives, Though They Seem Less Relevant
The future of such iGoogle replacements could be short-lived, though. Even on the open Web, users have many more options for specialized home pages than they used to. If you want a steady stream of headlines, news sites ranging from AOL and MSN to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC or Al Jazeera provide encapsulated looks at world events, stocks, entertainment and human interest stories, even if you can't customize them as thoroughly as you could iGoogle.
See also: The Race To Replace Google Reader
Other services, such as Google's News search page, can bring more custom looks at the Internet. The demise of Google Reader, another content presentation service from Google that was recently shuttered, has brought forth a slew of replacement RSS-reader services, like Feedly and Digg Reader.
And there are many more. But that's just the open Web. On mobile, apps have basically eaten the personalized home page already. App-built "magazines" like Flipboard can act as surrogate home pages, although of course they don't offer the same sort of widgets that iGoogle did. But that's on purpose; on a smartphone or tablet, the apps themselves are the widgets.
The pervasive influence of mobile platforms on our interfaces (see: Windows 8) means that the line between the personalized home page and the interface of the operating system itself is getting blurred. Why use a personalized home page, when your operating system can act as the same kind of gateway?
Image courtesy of Flickr/Matt Biddulph