iGoogle offers individual homepage, gadget advertising

Google has rebranded its personalised homepage offering “iGoogle” and launched a series of new features.

Along with the renaming, the search site is giving laypeople the ability to create their own “gadget” content quickly and easily.

Google vice-president Marissa Mayer last night said the team of engineers behind the personalised homepage service – which lets users add their own news, information and other modules – had picked the “iGoogle” name when the offering was launched a couple of years back, but had the suggestion vetoed by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

The site had continued to operate with the mysterious “ig” in its URL string.

Much like a harking back to the kinds of personalised homepages rolled out by My Excite and My Yahoo! in the 1990s (a realisation of Nicholas Negroponte’s Daily Me concept), the Google homepage offering has long made a series of “gadgets” (or, widgets) available to users, who are invited to clip on a variety of components that add weather, sport or other information to their homepage destination.

Until now, only experienced software developers could knock up new gadgets for inclusion on sites. But Google has now also made it easier for users to create their own with a “Make your own gadget” page that offers a step-by-step walkthrough on building components including photos, videos, quotes and more.

The zeal with which web users have begun creating their own social networking profiles and personalised online spaces might have suggested a fertile furrow to plough for Google. But iGoogle offers a different proposition to such sites.

“I’m not sure yet what this will do for Google’s business, since the company isn’t currently and doesn’t yet plan to run ads on iGoogle pages,”
wrote Business Week’s Rob Hoff.

“Once there’s a critical mass of groups of people whose gadgets indicate very clear and particular interests, however, I have to think it becomes very interesting to advertisers.”

Indeed, Google plans to release an API allowing companies to create their own branded gadgets, and Mayer added:

“I actually see gadgets themselves as a new form of advertising.”