Google broadens home page features

Search leader looking to attract visitors with geographic search, personalised feeds.

Google first staked out a claim to its thriving Internet business with what at the time was a very contrarian strategy. Prevailing wisdom held that in order to build a consistent and profitable following, Web destinations had to be all things to all people. Following the lead of early portal players such as Yahoo, most destination sites chased users and advertisers with a tremendous range of information services and miscellaneous offerings, including desktop applications and e-mail. Google, on the other hand, did only one thing-Web search. Its first expansions were into other aspects of search, such as the purchase of Deja to create Google Groups.

Flash forward to the present. Google has left behind many of the high-flyers which held a substantial portion of the Internet audience back when it launched (remember Excite? AltaVista?) but has clearly come to embrace all of the elements of the 1990s portal playbook. Now that it has formally launched and branded its personalized homepage offering, iGoogle, the final piece of the portal is in place.

Available to all Google account holders, iGoogle offers the same basic array of personalized newsfeeds and weather reports one expects from any portal site. Advanced features include the option to prioritize search results based on geographic location, in an attempt to obtain more relevant information for common searches on products and services of interest. As a sop to the current "community" craze, iGoogle also offers a series of "gadgets" users can create to automatically publish text or images to subscribers who install the gadget on their own home pages. The company also promises to reveal the entire range of information used to make personalization and keyword decisions through the iGoogle configuration interface.

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