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July 26, 2008

iGoogle Redirects

Google would be more than happy if all its users switched from the clean Google homepage to iGoogle. The personalized homepage works best if you have a Google account, it's a way to promote other Google services and to find information about your interests that could be used to personalize search results. At the earnings call from last week, Sergey Brin said that the artist themes launched in April made "hundreds of thousands of people to sign up for iGoogle".

Besides adding new themes to promote the service, Google uses some other tricks to increase iGoogle's usage. If you click on the iGoogle link from the homepage, Google sets a cookie preference so that every time you go to, you are redirected to iGoogle.

When you add a gadget from a web page to iGoogle, there's a vague setting enabled by default: "See this gadget when you visit", which also sets a cookie preference that redirects you to iGoogle.

The cookie preference is reverted when you click on "Classic Home" in iGoogle, but the effect of that extra click is not obvious.

"iGoogle is a more personal way to use Customize your page anyway you like, by adding your favorite themes and gadgets from across the web." That's how Google describes the personalized homepage of today, the social network of tomorrow.

For those who use both the classic homepage and iGoogle, but would rather see the classic homepage when they go to, the only solution is to type in the address bar or instead of clicking the iGoogle link.

Google redirects people that visit to different pages, based on their locations or devices, but it would be nice to explicitly define the preferences. Windows doesn't change the default browser to Internet Explorer just because you accidentally clicked on the IE icon.


  1. I love google, and I really do. But I am paranoid and figure that in about 5 years we'll have no more privacy at all.

    Until them, no iGoogle for me, and in fact, I have firefox delete all my cookies everytime the browser closes.

    I don't mind letting firefox store passwords, I do mind websites tracking my visits to as well as

    I'd visit iGoogle and take advantage of more of Google's services if I felt they had a better privacy policy.

    I might be real old school, I learned to dislike advertisers and think them creepy based on Larry Tate's behavior on the 1960's Bewitched.

  2. I don't think this practice is unethical. It is not even uncommon, if you think about software installation. For example Media Player, BS Player, Winamp all assign all media file types to themselves. You can only avoid this if you choose custom install or by going to settings after installation. This is pretty much the same situation as with iGoogle.

    I mean if I get redirected to the iGoogle page although I don't want to, then I'll obviously look around on the page to see what I can do about it. And finding the "Classic Home" link isn't that hard I would say.

  3. Technically, with the new iGoogle, you aren't redirected when you visit, instead iGoogle is shown instead of the standard homepage.

  4. I don't get the point of this article. It would be just as relevant to say, "Google uses cookies to remember the last version of the Google Homepage you chose, so that you see that same version the next time you visit the site."

    That's all. It's just a setting that remembers whether you switched to the iGoogle home page, or the classic home page. If I switch to iGoogle, I want to see it every time. I don't want to have to click the iGoogle link each time.

    Likewise, if I wanted to see the classic home page and switched to that, I'd want to see it each time. I wouldn't want to have to click the "classic home page" link each time.

    So, this functionality makes everyone happy... and yet, this article has found a way to make it seem deceptive. We might as well make the Internet itself seem devious and deceptive.

    How dare web browsers give away my Internet "phone number" (IP Address) to everyone I visit? Sure, I could use an anonymous proxy service, but then I'm sure it would give me info to them. And how dare my browser identify itself to every site I visit. What if I don't want people to know I'm using Firefox. My Uniden phone doesn't identify itself to the people I call.

    And how dare web browsers use cookies. Maybe I want to be anonymous every time I visit a website. I LOVE entering my information in constantly... and setting my preferences over and over again. It's fun. It gives me something to do with my time.

    And how DARE the Internet exists. I blame Gore. He should just unplug it.

  5., what have you been smoking?

  6. Funny that google wants everyone to use the new iGoogle page when it was the clean google home page that made it a popular replacement to the cluttered yahoo and msn search portal.

  7. The clean home page is the reason Google has been my default search engine since it launched--that and the discreet sponsored links in lieu of garish ads on the results pages. (I actually click on the ads in Google from time to time so they will get credit...something I never do on visually cluttered sites.)

    I use--and promote--many of Google's other great services on a regular basis but avoid iGoogle as much as possible because of the annoying re-direct afterwards.

    The simple search page should remain Google's trademark. Perhaps they could consider it a loss leader.

  8. I have been using iGoogle long time ago and its really helpful cause all my stuffs are on one location, no need to visit every homepage. I just scan all by stuffs and click whatever info that interests me. More power to Google!

  9. >"Windows doesn't change the default browser to Internet Explorer just because you accidentally clicked on the IE icon."

    Well said indeed!

    To add to ur readers in this context, from else where in ur blog, should take to the classic home irrespective of cache status.

  10. The Windows->IE comparison is not accurate, since both Google Classic and iGoogle are Google properties, one being an alternative of the other, while presumably whatever alternative browser you're using is not a Microsoft owned alternative.

    A better comparison would be if Microsoft automatically upgraded all XP users to Vista when they click on a new "try it out" link on the desktop, with a similar link to switch back afterwards.

    But besides that, I do think Google should offer the option to let the user decide what the default "" address should lead to.

    (BTW, the inline comments word verification whenever I try to use my Google Account still doesn't work; the captcha appears blank when I'm asked for the word.)