Revamped iGoogle offers new frontpage for the internet

The battle to be the frontpage of the internet has been around almost as long as the browser; with the new iGoogle homepage launched today, the search giant aims to end the discussion for good.
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Picking a homepage is a very personal decision. It's the internet's way of saying 'hello' every time you open a browser, sometimes tens of times a day, and web portals and content providers like Yahoo and MSN have strived throughout the short history of the internet to make them as useful as possible. Now Google think they have the answer in the new version of their iGoogle homepage, which originally launched in 2005 and has since expanded to include all manner of customisable functions designed to make iGoogle the essential homepage for web users.

"The new version of igoogle is essentially an upgrade", explains Google Product Manager Fiona Herring, who was in charge of the redesign. "It's really exciting because it gives an app experience and it allows each application to cover the page with more space than it would have previously. It allows you interact with your content and your information to a much greater degree."

Google boasts that what makes the new iGoogle homepage standout is how users can create a homepage which reflects their personal interests. Applications already available include those that will show weather forecasts, provide you with news headlines, display and let you edit a to-do list, and many more; there are tens of thousands of gadgets, as the applications are called, in the iGoogle directory, with the vast majority designed by developers from outside Google keen to show off their services and encourage people to visit their own websites. The fundamental change is that applications can now expand to display full screen if the user wants more information from a specific gadget. "With the weather gadget", says Fiona, "you can expand it to fill the whole screen, which enables you to see a detailed forecast, cloud formations and the airport traffic and all these things which are relevant to you when you're trying to understand the local news."

Some of the most useful gadgets are those made by Google engineers themselves however. "The new iGoogle allows you to chat with your friends," says Fiona. "There's a chat gadget on the left-hand side and so when you're in your page you can be there with your friends, which is a big step."

Coupled with the option to display your Gmail (Google's popular webmail service) inbox and personal calendar on your homepage, iGoogle has the potential to become a one-stop shop for all the services users would normally have to visit a number of web sites to utilise. As well as this, there are changeable 'themes', which allow you to edit your profile background to include designs from artists as diverse as Rolf Harris and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as musicians like Radiohead.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fiona is pleased with what her team has achieved. "The possibility that the new version of iGoogle provides to users is exciting. I'm loving my new page. I love that I can get more information and have everything at my fingertips, all in one place. It's much more effective now than previously and we're really excited about the launch."

The Independent has it's own iGoogle widget, delivering breaking news to your iGoogle homepage. Read more here, and add the gadget to your homepage.

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