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May 19, 2005

Google announces “My Google”

By Charlene Li

Ok, it’s not really called My Google, but a confused name called “Fusion”, but I think you get the idea. Available in the test area of Google Labs, the personalized home pageallows users to choose content (like Gmail, the New York Times, Google News, weather, etc.) In all, there are only 12 content choices for the page today.

Pretty slim pickings when compared to what My Yahoo! or My MSN have with their RSS enabled feeds. But expect iterations.

Why is Google doing this? Is this a concession to the strength of portal competitors? To a great degree, yes. Of the people who use Google most frequently to search the Interent, only 17% also have Google as their default home page – compare that to 72% that use MSN for search and also have it as their home page (more details are here – available only to Forrester subscribers). google users The biggest advantage that Yahoo and MSN (and yes, AOL) have is that they each have tens of millions of registered users. This is important if these sites want to be able to provide differentiated services to their users. In the end, it’s all about loyalty – and offering a better service thanks to personalized services will the differentiator.

Here’s an example. Today, if I type in a search for cruise vacation I would get the same results as you would . But with the advent of My Search History from Google and personalized search initiatives from Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves, the game appears to be to sign up users whom the search engines can then mine for data to provide a better search experience. Google is clearly behind and needs to step up their efforts to sign up users – hence the launch of the personalized home page. Google is very behind in terms of default home page share – and it hopes to remedy this situation quickly (stats on default home page and search loyalty are available only to Forrester clients.)

But why would people give up a rich interface like Yahoo, MSN, or AOL for Google? I believe that only Google loyalists will do so. You can recognized them – they talk about how they used Google to solve gnarly problems and gross on and on about Gmail. But for the rest of us, we’ll need to be convinced that it makes sense.

I think that day will come when Google not only offers RSS-enabled content (it’s an interesting change of pace to see Google chasing the industry leaders for a change) but also uses intelligence gathered from watching registered users’ behaviors. For example, if I subscribe to a feed of Canadian news in Google news, but only read articles about Montreal and always ignore news from Vancouver, then the service would push forward Montreal news and de-emphasize (or even not show) articles about Vancouver.

Interesting tidbit: I was called by a reporter during a client dinner about this news. I came back to the table, apologized for having to step away for a few minutes, and asked them to discuss the big news. Talk about real-time groking! We were no where near Web access so we couldn’t evaluate the service. But some of the key questions evolved around how far Google would go in tracking what people did with the site – and especially how consumers would feel about this.

At the end of the day, I believe there is such trust in Google, that most people will feel comfortable with the idea of Google increasingly encroaching into our private lives. As long as Google continues to lead the market – rather than follow it – this should be the case.

Update: In talking with reporters this evening, it looks like Google announced “Fusion” at their industry analyst and media “Factory Tour” of their campus. They had originally intended to launch it at the end of June, but pushed it out early. I wasn’t at the Factory Tour, but from first hand reports, it appears the launch was rushed – there’s also not strong positioning behind the “Fusion” name.

One last thought – Google said that they had been working on this personalized home page for a year and this is as far as they have gotten. Compare this to the richness of Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL’s personalization and you realize just how far Google has to go. The portals have had years of experience, which Google has to catch up to.


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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Google announces “My Google”:

» Reactions To My Google Personalized Home Page from Search Engine Watch Blog
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Greg Linden

Charlene, Charlene. You say the day will come when an intelligent news site will learn from the articles you read and adapt to your interests?

I know you have seen Findory before, Charlene. That future is already here.

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