iGoogle: It's Your Google

Posted by: Rob Hof on April 30, 2007

igooglelogo.jpg

Google has offered a personalized home page since 2005, but tonight it’s getting a major revamp. For one, it’s getting an uncharacteristically catchy new name, iGoogle. But the most interesting new feature to me is something called Gadget Maker.

Gadgets are the modules you can add to your Google personalized home page—assuming you knew you could create one. (Tens of millions of people apparently have.) Gadgets include everything from YouTube videos to weather modules to a window into your Gmail account. There are thousands of them, in fact. But so far, you’ve had to be a programmer to create one.

Now, Google is enabling real people to create their own gadgets—something that may set it apart from similar personalized home pages such as those from Yahoo! and Netvibes. You can choose from a set of seven templates, Google says:

* A photo gadget – to delight friends and family with your latest photo collections

* Google Gram greeting gadget – send your sweetie a gadget with flowers that bloom or chocolates that get nibbled along with a message that changes daily

* “Daily Me” personal profile gadget – a mini-blog that allows you to share your latest updates and musings
personal list gadget – whether it’s a grocery list or a top 10 favorite movies list

* Personalized countdown gadget – allows you to count down to a special event, vacation, birthday, etc.

* YouTube video favorites gadget – create and share a channel of your favorite YouTube videos

* Free form gadget – allows you to further customize a gadget if these other choices don’t suit you

I’m not sure where these will go, but I think Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land, who also attended Google’s presentation today on personalization, may be right when he says this could be a viral hit. “If you enable self-expression, people really flock to that.”

I’m not sure yet what this will do for Google’s business, since the company isn’t currently and doesn’t yet plan to run ads on iGoogle pages. Once there’s a critical mass of groups of people whose gadgets indicate very clear and particular interests, however, I have to think it becomes very interesting to advertisers.

Google plans to release an API for this, so it may not be long before companies create their own branded gadgets. Indeed, said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice-president of search products and user experience, “I actually see gadgets themselves as a new form of advertising.”

For now, anything that makes Google more useful and relevant can’t hurt. Mayer said that 15-20 years down the road, personalization will be the essence of search. “It’s one of the biggest advances we’ve had toward relevance in the past few years,” she said.

One key will be making sure this personalized stuff doesn’t get so personal as to give people the creeps. That’s something Google’s clearly aware of. For now, it isn’t cranking up the personalization real high on personalized search, which is based on tracking what Web sites people have visited (with their permission) and where they’re based geographically (again, when they specify a default location in Google Maps). Only a couple of Web sites based personalized query results are moved up into the top 10 for now.

Gadget Maker is launching at 9 p.m. Pacific tonight, so you have to wait a few hours to try it out.

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Reader Comments

dg

May 1, 2007 02:58 AM

sweet, except to use the community stuff, I'll have to set up my family's pages.

Could see good use for it in a small company as well - if everyone used a personalized home page, it could serve as a way to share the latest.

Daniel

June 7, 2007 06:39 AM

The API for creating gadgets is already there: http://code.google.com/apis/gadgets/

Used it to create an amazon/froogle mashup to search prodcuts and compare prices (http://amazonigoogle.filzhut.net/). Didn't take that long and has been quite easy using the good documentation.

Mahin

October 1, 2007 02:38 AM

The google api is pretty cool. I already developed few gadgets with the api and it's pretty simple. Visit www.screeperzone.com

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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