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Google Gets Personal

The service, similar to offerings from its competitors, lets users aggregate information, search, E-mail, and other content in their own personal portal to the Web.
Google Inc. on Thursday launched in beta a personalized-homepage service, stoking the competition with rivals Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN

The service, similar to offerings from its competitors, lets users aggregate information, search, email and other content in their own personal portal to the web.

Available content include a preview of messages from Google's web mail service Gmail, headlines from the search engine's news service and driving directions from its map service. Users also can add weather, movie and stock information, and other feeds from Slashdot, The New York Times, Wired News and BBC News.

Users can drag and drop sections to arrange them anyway they want on the page. Once its created, the user can sign in through their Google acccount.

Personalized homepages are popular with Internet portals because it's a good strategy for building a base of active, loyal users. Yahoo is the most successful in this area. In April, the portal had 26 million users of My Yahoo, reaching 16 percent of all the home, work and university Internet users in the U.S., according to web tracker ComScore Networks. MSN's service, on the other hand, covered only 6 percent.

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., is apparently challenging competitors for the majority of Internet users who have yet to sign up for a personal homepage.

ComScore analyst Graham Mudd said Google's entry in the market is "yet another indication of the intense competition in the online portal-search space."

While Google remains the leader in search queries on the web, capturing more than 36 percent of the total, it lags far behind No. 1 Yahoo in overall traffic to major portals, according to ComScore.

Yahoo had 71 percent of that traffic in April, or 114.8 million visitors. MSN had 59 percent, or 97 million visitors; and Google had 48 percent, or 78.7 million. America Online Inc.'s subscription-based portal was No. 3 with 52 percent, or 86 million.