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iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes

Personal webpages and advertising just don't mix.

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On Tuesday, Google announced that it plans to close iGoogle, its five-year-old personalizable home page, a move that has elicited hundreds of complaints from iGoogle users.

Asked whether Google might reconsider its decision to discontinue iGoogle, a spokeswoman on Friday simply pointed to the company's statements in its Tuesday blog post.

The message on Thursday from iGoogle product manager Conrad Lo was much the same. In a post to the iGoogle support forum, he attempted to mollify iGoogle users and encouraged them to seek out alternative services.

"While the transition may be difficult, this is part of our broader goal to focus our efforts and build a better Google," he wrote.

[ Want more info? Read Google Plans End Of iGoogle. ]

Netvibes, a personal Web dashboard provider founded in 2005, is one of the most frequently suggested iGoogle alternatives and the company says it has seen a surge of users creating new accounts.

User signups have jumped by a factor of eight since Google revealed that it plans to shut iGoogle in November 2013, said CEO Freddy Mini in a phone interview.

In February, Netvibes was acquired by Dassault Systems, thanks largely to the company's shift in 2008 to focus on business customers.

Netvibes has moved beyond Web page personalization to provide online dashboards and business intelligence to companies. It still allows consumers to create personalized Web pages but it augments its free service with business-centric paid options, such as brand monitoring, analytics, and enterprise portal services. The company is also a platform for Web apps.

"What we discovered in 2008, which is why we made a switch in direction, is that personalized pages will never be a great a business model," said Mini.

The reason, says Mini, is that advertising doesn't work on personalized pages. That may explain Google's lack of enthusiasm for maintaining iGoogle, once touted as a forum for a new kind of advertising. Personalized Web pages and advertising just don't mix very well.

"Can you sell advertisements in an intimate, private environment?" asks Mini. "Would you have a billboard in your living room? I don't think so."

And that's actually how iGoogle users think about their pages: Read a few of the complaints in the iGoogle support forum and you'll find that users of the service see their iGoogle pages as intimate spaces, individually crafted windows onto the Web. Google's decision to close iGoogle may be just business, but to iGoogle users, it's personal.

It's surprising that Google, having spent so much energy in recent years building migration tools to encourage business use of Google Apps, has created emigres because its enterprise unit couldn't find a way to utilize iGoogle. But Google's loss is Netvibes' gain.

Netvibes' strategic shift to supporting corporate clients is the reason that the company has been able to accommodate the surge in visitor traffic, according to a spokesman. And the company would like to see the traffic keep flowing: Next week, Netvibes plans to publish a blog post explaining how iGoogle refugees can transfer their dashboards.

Exporting feeds from iGoogle is already relatively easy, thanks to Google's commitment to data portability. The iGoogle settings menu, accessed from the options gear icon on the main iGoogle page, includes an import/export option at the bottom. An exported iGoogle feeds file is formatted as XML and must be converted to OPML to be imported into NetVibes.

"We will ease that process to welcome everybody to Netvibes," said Mini.

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Scott B
Scott B,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/6/2012 | 9:33:06 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
Sign the petition to save iGoogle!
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2012 | 3:19:50 AM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
A well thought out projecting from Mini at Netvibes! With the ease of exporting your entire iGoogle to Netvibes as simple as pushing a button. Claburn has this one right with GǣGoogle's loss Netvibes gainGǥ on this one.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2012 | 8:58:44 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
Good reporting. So users move from one self-important corporation to another like a flock of birds scattered by a loud, "we can't be bothered by peasants" bang. I'd say it's time we have another option: a web portal, even a full-featured service owned and operated by a public corporation, such as PBS or NPR. "Public broadcasting includes radio, television and other electronic media outlets whose primary mission is Public Service."--Wikipedia. I emphasized Public Service. iGoogle is clearly an invaluable public service. No, it doesn't generate any income, but it certainly (did) endears its users to the company offering it.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2012 | 1:11:33 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
Yep, I'm one of those refugees. I was a bit narked at the imminent loss of iGoogle but having started with Netvibes I've got to say I'm pretty impressed with it, Don't reckon I'll miss iGoogle for long.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/3/2012 | 2:34:13 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
Google knows what we want. Just a brilliant marketing, and sales move. But where?
User Rank: Apprentice
3/14/2013 | 5:05:06 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
I feel so cool now. I've been using Netvibes for years as my default RSS reader. Does that mean I'm a hipster? Uhhhhh.... no.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/14/2013 | 2:38:17 PM
re: iGoogle Refugees Flood Netvibes
It is good that Netvibes has positioned themselves in this way, but they are also positioning themselves to absorb the individual users as well. In that regard, it's extremely offputting that there is NO portal for help with anything, even if it's at their end, such as the feed for google translate not working due to a bad URL. There should be a portal for such questions.
User Rank: Apprentice
1/2/2014 | 3:26:42 PM
Not another iGoogle alternative...
Hey guys, I know there have been lots of iGoogle alternatives listed in the last couple of months. I just wanted to point out Hinto because the concept is different, you can customize your personalized homepage with content from every site you like. I find it neat!
User Rank: Apprentice
1/28/2014 | 8:40:27 PM
The alternative I ended up using is - it's the cleanest design I've seen so far and pretty easy to use.
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