TechCrunch has some nice charts around comScore data that compare the performance and growth of various Google product offerings. Gmail and Maps continue to qualify as successes but, as Google has said several times, its “fastest growing product” is its personal start page iGoogle. (Also very striking in the data is how poorly Google shopping has relatively fared [-73%].)
iGoogle (like competitors MyYahoo!, NetVibes, PageFlakes, MyAOL, Live.com, among others) is mainstreaming RSS and news feeds by repackaging the whole concept in a much more user-friendly way. Yet that’s perhaps the least interesting dimension of these products. Here’s a short piece I wrote back in Feb (before the phenomenal rise of Facebook) about these “personal start pages” and their potential, longer-term implications.
They sit at the center of a number of very interesting Internet trends: widget distribution, “universal search,” social media and personalization among them. However MySpace and Facebook are effectively trying to become the new (personalized) portals and actually compete with these start pages in that respect. But the start pages are more flexible and useful. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an evolution of Facebook toward the feel and functionality of these start pages eventually.
As one aside, I’ve spoken with Enquiro’s Gord Hotchkiss about how iGoogle allows the company to preserve its “classic Google” home page and spartan aesthetic for the majority but also to provide a “richer” experience for others who take advantage of iGoogle. There’s a kind of “segmentation” strategy here in a way, as people start to expect more structured and efficient content delivery from search engines. It also makes having Google as your homepage more useful than otherwise would be the case.
Google, as a general matter, is trying to knit together its “search, ads and apps” more closely. To that end the company unified its profile system recently. iGoogle has the capacity to be a kind of “hub” that also helps unify products and content on Google (with implications for search and advertising as well, including local content). These personal pages are also a template for a shared desktop-mobile experience that will be very “sticky.” Both Google and AOL are pursuing that to varying degrees.
Yahoo had a big headstart and lead with MyYahoo and until recently has neglected the product to its detriment in my view.
It will be interesting to see where and how far Google takes iGoogle in the coming year or two.
Newspapers are using the Netvibes “ecosystem” as a branded syndication tool. I’m not sure how successful this has been for them but it’s a fascinating concept not unlike Facebook platform, if less well known.