Google drops iGoogle -- and some users ask: Why?

It's always suspicious when a company (or a politician for that matter) makes an announcement over a holiday, when people are a lot less likely to be watching the news. Perhaps when Google chose July 3rd, the day before everyone took off for Independence Day, to announce it was shuttering a few more of its services, including its iGoogle home-page portal, the company thought that there would only be a small blip on a few users' radars.

Apparently not.

Google may feel that, according to its announcement, "the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time," but many of the portal's users disagree. There has been a minor swell in dissatisfaction over the upcoming shutdown (according to Google, in about 16 months). At last count, there were nearly 1,000 comments, most indicating displeasure, in the Google Product Forum, and one unhappy user has even created a petition in Change.org.

The closure has become part of Google's "spring clean" shutdown (that began in the fall of 2011) of many services it perceives as being underused or out of date. The problem is that the folks at Google may have lost touch with a large portion of its users -- those that aren't continually jumping to try (and purchase) the Next Big Thing.

It's easy for those of us who enjoy (and even make our living) following new tech developments to forget that, for many people, a computer, a tablet or a phone is simply a tool. Scanning the various comment pages, I've seen some sympathetic techies suggest that those who still want a single-page portal create their own using basic HTML. Which is a good idea -- but it assumes that all or most of those currently using iGoogle have the skill or the inclination to deal with even the simplest coding.

In fact, from my own (admittedly unscientific) observation, the users who depend on iGoogle and similar services tend to be those who, once they find tools they are comfortable with, stick with them. Several mentioned that their parents used iGoogle as a comfortable way to access the Web, and worried that they'd have to find a substitute that their mother or father would be as happy with. I'm personally aware of at least a couple of iGoogle users who are not at all technically adept and who find it a very handy tool.

The company, meanwhile, has suggested that iGoogle users check Google Play or Google Chrome for substitute apps -- a particularly unhelpful response for those whose main purpose in using iGoogle was to have a single, convenient page on which to have immediate access to appointments, important links, weather reports, new email, etc. Clicking around tabs just isn't the same.

Perhaps Google expects that, after a year or so, enough people will have moved to its new Google Now interface on tablets and smartphones that that they won't care about the more old-fashioned interface. Perhaps the company is planning to offer a similar app for its Chrome browser, so that laptop users will have a different, but no less useful, means for being able to follow all the information they need at a single glance.

Or perhaps Google is simply running toward the future so quickly that it's no longer concerned about serving the less tech-savvy users whom it may leave behind.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: Five IT certifications that won’t break you
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies