If you’ve not yet heard, Google plans to pull the plug on iGoogle in November 2013 in addition to a few other services like Google Video and Google Mini. Though the company have yet to announce a viable alternative for those who still use the service, comparable start pages do exist.
The best replacement depends entirely on how you use the service, whether it’s for a brief glance at the news and weather before starting a browsing session or as a full blown RSS and social media reader with widgets for everything under the sun. After much time trawling through countless start page services I’ve narrowed it down to this list of six.
If you’ve got your own personal favourite alternative to iGoogle or a particularly strong opinion about the news of the closure then be sure to add your thoughts in the comments, at the end of this post.
Probably the most complete solution for iGoogle refugees, Netvibes really does have a widget for just about anything you could ever want. Read your email, browse the news, single out an RSS feed, view images, update Twitter – the list is (nearly) endless. This is all possible from a free account, and you can even create your dashboard without having to forfeit your email address and sign up.
There is an easy to miss button at the top of the screen for toggling between “widget” and “reader” mode, while services can be split across multiple tabs in order to keep some sort of order. The premium service provides some very powerful tools for analysing trends and monitoring online activity in real-time, and at $499 per month for a single user it sure is a “premium” service.
The free option will be suitable for most of us though, and it’s the perfect (and most powerful) alternative to iGoogle.
Not far behind Netvibes in terms of functionality, uStart also provides a hugely customisable start page from which to start any browsing session. Widgets can be added, feeds can be monitored and themes can be applied to really make it feel like your own corner of the web, though it’s not quite as advanced or pleasing to the eye as Netvibes in my opinion.
Much like Netvibes, you don’t have to sign up in order to test it out and you can build your whole dashboard before deciding if it’s right for you. You can also separate your widgets across multiple tabs, and make use of the in-built RSS reader which is pretty nifty.
A similar service to Netvibes and uStart, Protopage is a worthy replacement for iGoogle, though it requires a little more work than the other two in order to get it looking good. Much of the functionality of the aforementioned start pages is there in addition to theming options which allow you to specify your own background and colours (which you’ll be wanting to do).
Protopage feels a little more cluttered than the other two and lacks a dedicated RSS reader, opting instead for individual feed widgets (which can include multiple sources). You can try before registering, and by default the service provides you with a home tab packed with news sources, a bookmarks tab and a notes tab – though I’d recommend deleting it all and starting from scratch if you’re going to use this one.
Spaaze is a little different to the rest of the services mentioned here in that it bills itself as a never-ending virtual corkboard and doesn’t come with hundreds of widgets to drag and drop. The corkboard itself allows you to scroll in any direction, and at any time you can bring up a “map” which allows you to quickly jump to any specific section – it’s a bit like the failed GridOS Android skin.
Much of the functionality comes in the form of HTML code snippets which allow you to add things like Google Gadgets or Twitter widgets to your corkboard in addition to bookmarks, labels, notes and YouTube or Vimeo videos. Much of Spaaze is free, with a prepaid system for upgrades as and when you want them.
Forgotten by many, Yahoo! also has its own iGoogle-like service entitled My Yahoo!. It too allows for complete customisation of content and appearance, even to the point of being able to move the mandatory advertising widget to wherever you want it (yes, really). Much of what iGoogle offers is available here too, albeit with a decidedly Yahoo! twist.
There are a selection of widgets to search through and add, though the list is a little empty compared to Netvibes, uStart and Protopage. The supplied themes are really quite similar to those you might already be using on your iGoogle page with further layout options and multiple tabs for separating content. It’s easy to see how iGoogle crept ahead, but My Yahoo! might still be up to the task for some.
Slightly different again, Symbaloo is more of a bookmark resource (with a twist) than a traditional iGoogle-style start page. There is support for RSS feeds and some inbuilt interactive widgets like weather, various social media accounts and a mail checker to name but a few, though it’s all contained within the simple tiled interface seen in the screenshot below.
Each set of tiles is known as a “webmix” and each is added to a public gallery of webmixes created by other users. You can easily and quickly add a list of websites someone has already constructed to a new tab, create your own personalised one from scratch or a mixture of the two. Part bookmark tool, part newsreader and part discovery tool, Symbaloo supports much of what iGoogle does albeit from a different type of interface.
If none of these cut the mustard then you could always settle for Chrome’s default start page and some web store apps. As for web-based services, the most feature packed is probably Netvibes, and it should make the transition from iGoogle very smooth for some of you.
If you’ve got any particular favourites or anger to vent at Google’s decision then add your thoughts in the comments, below!