If you use the iGoogle service as your home page on Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome (or whatever web browser you prefer to use), you are probably aware that it will be discontinued on November 1, 2013 – less than 2 months from now. Some people don’t care, and others are in a panic about what to do.
For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about…
For many years, Google has offered a pretty handy service. You could create your own customized home page with what are typically called “gadgets”. A gadget is just a little section on that home page that displays some type of information. You could put on a gadget that tells you what the weather is in your zip code currently, one to display your newest emails, one to show current stock prices for companies you select, and lots more. Just about any kind of information can be customized to what you want to see when you open your web browser. There are hundreds of gadgets, divided into these categories:
For people that like to have all their “stuff” laid out nicely on the opening page (home page) of their web browser, iGoogle is a cool thing to use. So, naturally, Google has decided to discontinue offering it. This continues Google’s theme of shutting down (they call it “sunsetting”) services that they don’t feel they can offer any longer. After all, this service does not bring in any revenues. Same goes for Google Reader, which they also ended a few months ago.
But there is some good news. As is often the case when there is high demand for a service, and then that service goes away, several other providers have stepped up and created custom home pages that can be used in place of iGoogle. I have checked out several of them and my notes are below.
Alternatives to iGoogle
My impression is that igHome started out by saying, “Okay, let’s see how closely we can replicate the actual iGoogle home page”. And in that area they are pretty accurate. The Google search bar is at the top, and above that they even list all of the Google pages such as Gmail, Calendar, etc. Lots of gadgets are available just by clicking on “Add Gadgets” and if you’ve used iGoogle for any length of time, you’ll find igHome to be pretty intuitive.
The Protopage home page layout kind of reminds me of the “Fences” desktop software I reviewed a while back. The whole page is made up of individual cells, each one a different category. Protopage calls them “widgets” instead of “gadgets” but they work the same way. However, I was kind of disappointed in the limited availability of gadgets – doesn’t seem to be nearly as many as in some of the other services. The focus seems to be more on aggregating RSS feeds (which is fine if that is your objective).
MyWay is a bit different from the others in that it doesn’t use “gadgets” or “widgets”. It’s just a page full of links to various sites. It kind of reminds me of the real early days of Yahoo!, when it was the standard site to use as a web directory (in fact, MyWay even has a section called “Web Site Directory” that looks just like the old Yahoo! home page as I remember it). You can personalize it with the sites you want by signing up for a free account. However, I would not consider using this site because the default search engine, right there at the top of the page, is Ask… which, in my opinion, is one of the biggest blights on the internet currently. I know I can change it to a different search engine, but they lost me with the negative first impression. I’m sure they don’t care because Ask pays well.
Netvibes has been around for several years (it was launched in 2005 to be exact). I remember playing with it quite a while ago, but I never really set it up to use it. This time, when I went back in to check it out again, I can remember why I didn’t really like it before. It’s not really very intuitive. The other sites made it pretty obvious how to customize the page by adding various elements to it. With Netvibes, they have “dashboards” and apparently there is a different dashboard for each topic. There are links at the top of the page for Widgets and Reader, but I didn’t immediately notice that the idea is to switch back and forth between those two modes. And right over the main search field it says “Type your page title here” but the page title has nothing to do with search. I would probably figure it all out eventually, but the other ones just seem a lot easier to use.
This is one of my favorites, and I actually liked it right from the start. When you first go to the site, there is a little window in front of the main screen with some categories to check to indicate what kind of sites you are interested in. Then you get to choose what the background looks like. So by the time you click on “Use your page” it’s already somewhat customized to what you want to see. Then you can click on “Customize your page” and add more RSS feeds and widgets. This is all before you even register. By registering, you can log into your page from any computer.
I would say the two I liked the best are igHome and uStart. Kind of leaning toward igHome because it’s just so darn easy to use.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are others that you can find if you search for them. But in most cases you will probably want to avoid these. One is called “Homepagey” – the website looks like some kid with a plain text editor is learning HTML and decided to make a web page. Another one is “Daily Rotation” – not a terrible layout, but the content is really designed mostly for geeks.
Have you decided on a page to replace your iGoogle? Let us know in the comments!