Build your own gadgets with iGoogle

A real-time account of the iGoogle announcement

I blog to you today from Google, where the company is holding a workshop on personalization. The first speaker is Marissa Mayer, the company's VP of search products and user experience.

She's talking about the history of personalization at Google, and explained that when the company was putting together the Google Personalized Home Page back in 2005, one of the working names had been iGoogle. But they decided to think of it as a feature rather than a product, and it rolled out with the intentionally mundane name of Google Personalized Home Page.

The "iGoogle" name lived on, however, in a way that nobody outside of Google understood--the Personalized page lived at the www.google.com/ig URL. (Some people, she's saying, thought the name of the page was Google iG.)

And here's the first news of the day: Ms. Mayer has told us that two years later, the Personalized Home Page is getting that snazzy name. They're announcing today that it'll be known as iGoogle.

Jessica Ewing, the product manager for iGoogle (nee Google Personalized Homepage) is running down some of the service's features.

Highlights:

* Google checks out the domain you're coming to iGoogle from and, when suggesting gadgets for you to add, may show some ones based on your location. (Someone coming to the site from Harvard.edu, for instance, would get Boston news-related gadgets.)

* "Magic Tabs" lets you type in a name for a new tab (say, "Astronomy") and get the tab pre-populated with a set of Google Gadgets based on the name you typed and which gadgets other people with tabs of that name chose.

* The company's continuing to add artful new themes, some of them with appropriate cultural references--Google France users can give their iGoogle page a Monet theme, for instance.

* Here's a biggie: Google is adding a feature called Gadget Maker that lets non-geeks create Google Gadgets, then share them with anyone they want. (Home-made gadgets can be either public--that is, listed in the Google Gadgets directory--or just for friends.

We're getting some examples of the gadgets folks can build...

* The gadget maker lets users build mini photo galleries that can be embedded in iGoogle; the photos in it can change at designated intervals. If you later update the gadget with more photos, anyone who has it in iGoogle automatically gets the new version.

* A "GoogleGram" is a "sort of a greeting card that unfolds over seven days on someone's home page." You can select a sequence of artwork, then plug in up to seven captions.

* "The Daily Me" is a "sort of a mini blog." You can plug in what you're doing, program in links, tell people what you're thinking, etc., etc. Anyone who has your gadget will get the updates. Kind of a combination of certain aspects of LiveJournal and Twitter, sorta.

* A new YouTube gadget lets you choose a set of videos. Anyone with the gadget can watch 'em right in iGoogle.

* A "Free Form" gadget simply lets you plug in an image and some text. The example we're seeing is an "Oscar Wilde Quote of the Day."

* "My List" lets you create custom lists like "Books we're reading right now."

* "Countdown" lets you create a gadget that counts down to an important event, like a vacation.

Ms. Ewing is now showing us another new gadgets feature--"My Community." If anyone in your Gmail contact list has created gadgets, you can find them there...

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Harry McCracken

PC World
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