Home Google’s Personalization Push: iGoogle, Localization, Gadget Maker

Google’s Personalization Push: iGoogle, Localization, Gadget Maker

The announcement last night of 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.

As Read/WriteWeb noted in
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

So Google is obviously
pushing ahead with personalization on multiple fronts. If you recall, Read/WriteWeb ran a
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

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?

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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