27 July 2012

After iGoogle

I have been using iGoogle as my personalized homepage for more than five years. I have recommended it to people who also now use it. So I was disappointed to learn at the beginning of July that Google intends to “retire” iGoogle on 1 November 2013.

I suppose I don’t do a great deal with iGoogle. For me there have always been two key widgets: the Google Bookmarks and Google Reader widgets. I have a tidy set of links that I like to have available to me at all times. And I’m a bit old-school (if a non-techie can be ‘old-school’ about something techie) in that I prefer to gather the rss feeds of news sites and blogs that I enjoy and read them in one handy location, i.e. my homepage. Less essential widgets (for me), but still useful, are the French and German Word-Of-The-Day widgets from Transparent Language and the small Google Translate widget. I also use a weather widget that keeps me updated on the state of the rain (or sun) in Oxford, London, and Toronto, but that is only looked at periodically.

One reason that iGoogle has been so convenient is that I often cycle between a variety of browsers, computers, and operating systems. My iGoogle homepage, however, stays constant whether I am using Firefox or Safari or Chrome, or PC, Mac, or Linux.

Another reason for iGoogle’s convenience is its robustness and (in an environment of rapid change) stability. More than five years is a long time these days. And, yes, maybe I’m getting settled in my ways. But still…

Google notes that in the current era of modern mobile apps, “the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time”. But not for me. My need for it remains exactly the same as when I first started using it more than five years ago. I don’t use “mobile” devices. I use desktops and laptops. I use a web browser. Am I the last one who works this way?

Unfortunately none of the alternatives that Google suggests are terribly convenient. Yes, I could use tabs in my browser for the Google Bookmarks web page and the Google Reader web page, and likewise for Google Translate and other widgets I use daily. But have you looked at the Google Bookmarks web page? Or the Google Reader web page? They are very user-unfriendly, at least a compared with the straightforward way their data is dealt with in my current iGoogle widgets.

As I see it, at the moment, there are two possibilities for how I will organize my daily web use after iGoogle’s demise. I will either have to go with a pre-packaged solution, such as NetVibes. Or I will have to set up my own personalized homepage on one of the domains I manage. Neither is ideal.

I, perhaps na├»vely, like Google. I like most of Google’s family of tools (Gmail, Reader, Bookmarks, Calendar, Maps, Docs [now Drive], etc.). And I liked iGoogle.

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