Friday, November 01, 2013
It's been there every morning when I wake up since 2005, there when I go to sleep, and there throughout my day. Anytime I wanted to check one of a number of preferred news sources for the world headlines, football news, what's happening in the business world, weather, the time in different cities - it's been there. Refreshing itself, always new.
It was a true "dashboard". Yes, I know that's one of those semi-analogous phrases the technology industry loves to make something slightly sexier than it actually is, but with iGoogle, a most apt description for how I, as a self-confessed news junkie, kept abreast of the world throughout the day via computer, smartphone or tablet.
So it is with the heaviest of hearts that I’m coming to terms with the forced closure by Google of arguably its best – and simplest product. The reason, Google says, is that "the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time", claiming that access to information via their own apps like Chrome and Android make it redundant. "We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips," Google says.
Ironically, the architect of iGoogle was Marissa Mayer, now CEO of Yahoo!. "I look at personalised search and I think it is one of the biggest advance we have had in the last couple of years," she said at the first major refresh of iGoogle in 2007, when Google's Vice President of User Experience.
Mayer and Yahoo! could, if they get their act together, retrieve iGoogle's millions of abandoned users by restoring the My Yahoo! service to the status of pre-eminent news dashboard it held before its upstart rival from Silicon Valley's Mountain View came along.
To all intents and purposes, iGoogle was more or less what My Yahoo! had started out as. Google, however, made the concept easier to personalise, and far richer in the choice of sources and widgets available. In short, it became indispensable.
Today, as Google shutters iGoogle, and 15 million users go off to make do with comparable services like Netvibes, iGhome and Symbaloo, they are curiously closing off a service which needed little further improvement and certainly, from this end of the fibre, no reason to be killed.
Even now, Google's claim that iGoogle has been superseded by the plethora of information aggregation apps and sites is thin. If you want to take the 'dashboard' description literally, imagine a car where you effectively had to install different apps just to see how fast you were driving, what the fuel situation was, and what radio station you were tuned into.
Joni Mitchell made a very good point when she opined “that you don't know what you've got till it's gone”, but I can promise her that long before iGoogle disappears from our computer screens today, 15 million of us knew exactly what we are losing.