Friday, August 31, 2012

Google retires iGoogle on November 1, 2013 - here's an alternate suggestion.

As most are now aware, Google began posting a "iGoogle will not be available after November 1, 2103" message on our iGoogle homepages.

To many of us, this was quite a shock because we believe that having a customizable browser home page is one important feature that allows all of us to express our own individuality. iGoogle gave us the ability to change the background images based on our own criteria, whether it be the seasons, our mood, our interests, or whims.

iGoogle also gave us the ability to add little "Gadgets" to our home page. Thus, when we start our browsing session, we can immediately get a quick summary of those items that interest us most, such as: the weather, our horoscope, various news feeds, sporting results, lottery results, calculators, etc. The layout of our page was up to us and it could be as simple or complex as we wished.

iGoogle was a wonderful tool that provided all this information without having to click on anything. If we wanted to learn more, we could follow our links of interest with one simple keystroke.  Google hosted our layout information, bringing everything together as if by magic.

In it's "What's happening to iGoogle" explanation, Google tells us that "the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time", and thus they will be retiring this important asset.  But, where ever I look in my office, I always see iGoogle homepages on co-workers computers.

So, my thinking is that there is more behind Google's decision to retire iGoogle.

Currently, iGoogle works on all available browsers: Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Sea Monkey, Chrome, etc. 

But, Chrome is Google's proprietary browser, and they are aggressively pushing it presence. 

Now, as a replacement for the iGoogle functionality, Google suggests that we utilize Chrome. Within that framework, we can add "productivity tools" which are available in it's "Chrome Web Store".

This solution has two drawbacks:
  • First, applications added to Chrome from the Chrome Web Store simply add "short-cut" icons on the new Tab page. If one one wishes to see the contents of that application, they must then click on the icon. Thus, the "at a glance" and "one-click" functionality is gone.
  • Second, most iGoogle gadgets are not yet readily available in the Chrome Web Store. Gadget developers must now repackage their gadgets before adding them to the Store. But before they can do this, they must pay a one time fee to Google.
My thought is that Google is trying to be more like Apple. Since most Apple products only work on Apple hardware, Google appears to be trying to monopolize its own products. By retiring iGoogle and forcing users to utilize replacement applications that are only available on Chrome, Google is casting a tightly knit net around it's products.

I do not have a problem with this intention. But, I disagree with the proposed solution.

I believe that if Google's goal is to provide a self contained environment, then a better option for the iGoogle users of the world would be to announce that "iGoogle would only be available on Chrome beginning November 1, 2013". By doing this, all of us users could continue to have and enjoy the same iGoogle functionality, meaning immediate access to a broad range of information as we currently enjoy.

Further, Google could request that all Gadget developers pay the one time fee for providing the distribution service. I, for one, would do this. Those who do not pay the fee would lose the distribution of its gadgets.

Certainly, stating that iGoogle would only be available on Chrome would be a blatant statement to the marketplace. However, having the choice to either switch browsers or lose functionality would be in the hands of the end-user population, not Google's. People do not get mad at themselves. So, by having this choice, everyone would be happy. Users could continue to access iGoogle and their favorite gadgets, and Google would have a self-contained environment and a captured audience.

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