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Google Shaping iGoogle Into Web's Front End

The launch of gaming themes for iGoogle lets people express their personalities and interests, executive Marissa Mayer says.


Zeebo Wireless Video-Game Console

Google's iGoogle Gaming
(click for larger image)

Google is contemplating the possibility that its core service, search, could become nothing more than a widget inside an iGoogle personalized home page.

Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of search products and user experience, said as much during a conversation following her introduction of a set of new iGoogle Gaming Themes at a media event held in San Francisco on Wednesday evening.

Many possible futures cross the minds of Google's leadership, and Mayer wasn't making any definitive statements about the company's future plans. But she observed that Google is focusing both on pulled and pushed information -- the former, like search queries, delivered upon request, and the latter, like RSS feeds and iGoogle widgets, delivered automatically as per prior request.

Google's effort to become the broadcaster of pushed information began in earnest with the introduction of iGoogle in May 2007. At the time, Mayer emphasized that in the years ahead, Google expected search to become more personal. "When I look at things 15 to 20 years out ... what will the search engine be like?" she said. "It will be a lot better and will understand more about the user."

Google's framework for understanding more about its users is iGoogle. The launch of gaming themes for iGoogle, as Mayer put it, is about "allowing people to express their personalities and their interests." It's a way for Google to get to know its users. It's also, Mayer explained later on, a way to build an emotional bond with users. For many players, gaming isn't just a pastime, it's an identity.

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