iGoogle Review

On: September 22, 2008
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About Bram Nijhof
Bram Nijhof is a master student of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. He has a bachelor degree in Art & Technology and a bachelor degree in Media & Culture with an expertise in New Media.

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A few years ago I started with using iGoogle, a personalized starting page from Google. iGoogle is one of the best 100 web 2.0 applications according to Webware (from Cnet). With iGoogle you can add applications in the starting page which looks like widgets. Google calls them gadgets. Some examples of those gadgets are the following:

– The newest G-mail messages;
– RSS feeds from Google News and other news sources;
– Weather forecasts and information about the stock market;
– Bookmarks;
– Applications like the calculator, to-do-lists, agenda, dictionaries etc.

Different things which are implemented in the personalized page are remediations of existing things. Examples are the (analogue) clock, the agenda, calendar, the dictionary and the weather report. They all refers to older media.

I also make use of Google Gadgets for Ubuntu and these gadgets looks like Apple’s OSX widgets. iGoogle is using some of the same gadgets of the database. Both in iGoogle and Google Gadgets you can choose the gadgets from a list. iGoogle can synchronize Gmail messages so that your gmail messages are visible on this page. Also Google agenda is synchronized in iGoogle.

You can customize your webpage with templates of other users and artists, but when I wanted to create my own template I received an url error. But normally I has to be possible. You also can make gadgets by yourself and share them with other users.

The user can put the gadgets in it own order. This will mean that the gadget at the top is more visible than the one at the bottom. After using the page a while I came to the conclusion that I only used the applications at the top. First I was enthusiastic at the utility, but later I noticed that I didn’t read all those RSS feeds anymore. It is also because you have to scroll down. When you have a lot of RSS feeds there is much text on the page and the links will less attracts attention. Moreover, some RSS feeds weren’t updated.

The iGoogle page can speed up things, because it will give you a full overview of your important internet services. I’ll noticed that I didn’t have to check my email every time, because it was already visible in the starting page. Also it is like a desktop, because of the remediated utilities like the to-do-list and the agenda.

Privacy

I am always asking myself “Why can we make use of this applications for free?”. There are no advertisements on the page unless you put in a search request. On the iGoogle Privacy Notice page Google says: “When you use iGoogle, Google’s servers automatically record log information which may include information about your preference settings.” They are making use of cookies. It is to make sure that the page will be personalized with the user’s preferences. Google says they use the information in order to offer the service and to improve the quality of their service.

In personalizing the start page Google knows more about you. Then they can send more personalized advertisements to you. It could be that they use this information to personalize search requests and to offer advertisements that will fit into your profile. In the article “Google Ramps Up Personalized Search” the author explains how Google is introducing personalized search. Search results are based on your web history. When you have a Google account this history will be captured. So, when using the start page the user is always logged in the Google account and that gives Google the ability to store data about you. It could be for example that Google knows what RSS feeds you like. Then they can change the search results into ones that fits into your iGoogle page interests and they can put the right advertisements on it. iGoogle can be handy, but just like other Google products this utility is also a way for Google to know more and more about you.

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