Our iGoogle Alternative? We’re Going Home, igHome!

iGoogle's demise is just a month away and it's time to get ready to move. Our endorsement for an iGoogle replacement is igHome!
ighome

We know, some of you may be asking, what took you so long? igHome's been out there for a year. We looked at and continued to track all of the following alternatives.


24eyes | 43marks | Aboogy | All My Faves | ALOT | AOL | backstitch | Blinkdash | BlinkList | BonzoBox | ClickO | Delicious | Den | Diigo | Excite | Funky Homepage | Feedly | Genieo | Google Sites | Gritwire | iClick2View | iFroggles | igHome | iGoogle Portal | iloggo | Inbox.com | intereStuff | Internet Buttons | Jolicloud | Kadaza | Kiiosk | KiteDesk | LStack | middlespot | Moovlink | My MSN | My Way | My Yahoo! | MyFav.es | myLinkCloud | MyStartSite | NewsBlur | Netvibes | Nextaris | Nollr | Nowsy | Only2Clicks | Opera News Portal | Ost | Pinboard | Pobb | Portalfin | PortalPanel | Protopage | Pulse | ROCKZi | Sitehoover | SiteShuffle | skim.me | Spaaze | start.io | Startific | STARTME | Startpix | State | StumbleUpon | Symbaloo | SymbalooEDU | tabUp | Tizit | Tizmos | Totally.Me | Transferr | uStart | Weblist | Webnavigo | Webwag | Wonderpage | YourPort.com | Zeadoo | zenstart | Zimbio


And, like so many, we kept expecting the emergence of a personal dashboard that made iGoogle yesterday's news. igHome is quietly doing that by steadily building content, a track record of reliability, a good name and a loyal following. Read on to learn more about igHome, including our comprehensive setup guide.

igHome Operations

Prior to making our endorsement, we contacted Mike Sutton, igHome's founder and long-time iGoogle gadget developer, to learn a little bit more about igHome operations. Most important, we wanted to know about igHome operating reliability, financial sustainability and future plans.

igHome's network may not look like a Google datacenter...yet. But, it's pretty good, with "redundant servers in multiple state of the art datacenters, along with onsite and offsite backups of data." The team at SaveiGoogle.org has regularly monitored igHome's progress since it launched last year and has never experienced an outage or data loss.

Mike also told SaveiGoogle.org, "igHome operates using an ad supported model. There is one unobtrustive banner ad at the bottom of the dashboard along with ads on search results pages. The revenue generated makes igHome profitable and sustainable for the foreseeable future." igHome also allows gadget developers to run ads within their gadgets as long as they follow igHome policy.

Regarding future plans, Mike told us "we're focused on building the site infrastructure and improving performance to get ready for iGoogle's closing. Once we're comfortable with the service level, we will focus on improvements including a new weather gadget, finance portfolio gadget, and language specific versions of igHome. Users are constantly providing suggestions and we make the most popular ideas a priority. In addition, we are working with other developers to make it easier to write and submit gadgets to the igHome directory. We believe that quality, user-provided gadgets and content are the key to providing ongoing, continuous improvement of the site."

igHome reliability, a sustainable financial model and what sounds like reasonably paced development along with user engagement are priorities for Mike and his team. That should keep igHome users happy too.

igHome Setup Guide

Signup and Access
igHome operates well for desktop, laptop and tablet devices and a mobile version is in beta testing. igHome can be accessed using the following links:

  • Desktop/Laptop/Tablet: https://www.ighome.com. The link provided is a secured link. After accessing igHome, to register or login, click on the prominent blue "Sign In To Personalize" button at top right. A popup dialog box will appear. Follow the instructions to register or login. After login, igHome will redirect you to it's unsecured version. Like iGoogle, many igHome gadgets are actually hosted at sites other than igHome and the nature of their content (e.g., rss feeds and the infamous hamster gadget) should not require delivery using a secured link. After login, you can switch to the secured link if you prefer. A good way to do that is to add the secured link to igHome's black bar (more on that further below). But, recognize you may not be able to access many of igHome's gadgets in secured mode.
  • Mobile: http://www.ighome.com/mobile/. Signup using the full site is required before the mobile version of igHome can be accessed. It's still in beta testing, so don't be surprised if some content can't be accessed. For now, we're referring you to the unsecured link. The secured link (https://www.ighome.com/mobile/) does function. But, after login you aren't sent to the unsecured mobile version and the secured version currently provides minimal functionality. If you want to view the full site on your mobile device, you can do so by selecting the "View Full Site" link at the bottom of the dashboard page.

Settings/Customization

After login, it's time to get busy customizing your igHome dashboard. Almost every customization option can be accessed by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard. Following is a description of all settings accessible via that icon, including Profile, Messages, Hide Search, Hide Share Icons, Add RSS Feed, Add Gadgets and Logout.

My Profile - Preferences

After selecting profile, you'll be taken to the preferences page were you can select your default number of columns for a tab (page), and select several default preferences for RSS feeds. Default preferences can be modified for each tab and RSS feed (more on that further below).

My Profile - Choose Theme

Following preferences is the option to choose a theme. igHome has 40 built-in themes and also allows for customization using solid colors (i.e., "Choose a custom color") or your own image (i.e., "Custom Image (URL)"). Hopefully, Mike and his team will be able to make time to add a color picker or color picker gadget. Until then, we suggest using ColorPicker.com to find a solid color you like. Note that custom images have to be hosted somewhere on the internet. If you don't have a website, add the image you want to use to a website where you store images (e.g., instagram, flickr, google drive), make the image publicly accessible and enter the image address into the box by the "Custom Image (URL)".

You can also go directly to the Choose Theme option by selecting the "Choose Theme" link on the right side of the tab bar near the top of the dashboard.

ighome-color-selectorUpdate: As pictured to the right, a theme color picker has been added to igHome. Clicking on the checkerboard area on the right side of the "Choose a custom color" input box (circled in red in the picture to the right) will display the color picker. Use the color wheel to select a color and the slider to the right of the color wheel to lighten or darken it. You may still want to use ColorPicker.com for color inspiration.

My Profile - Search Engine

Following choose theme is the option to modify the search engine used by igHome's search bar near the top left of the dashboard. We prefer to leave it set to the default (igHome results provided by Google) so that igHome gets a little revenue from Google when we click on an ad that interests us. But, there are also options for Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Startpage, and country specific Google search. Search results can also be shown "in the same tab", replacing the dashboard, or "in a new tab".

My Profile - Black Bar Links

Following search engine is the option to modify the black bar links. The black bar is similar to the Google black bar and runs across the length of the top of the dashboard. It is preset with links to Gmail, Google Calendar, Feedly, Google Bookmarks, Google Maps, Google Images, YouTube, Google News and Google Drive. Each one of those links can be modified or removed and there is room for three additional links. In addition, the links can be set to open "in the same tab" or "in a new tab".

My Profile - Change Email Address

Following black bar links is the option to change your login email address. We presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that setting.

My Profile - Change Password

Following change email address is the option to change your password. Again, we presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that setting. We do hope that Mike and his team will be able to make time to add some tips for a strong password and a password strength meter. Until then, we suggest you use pctools Secure Password Generator if you need help creating a password.

My Profile - Import from iGoogle

Following change password is the option to import your iGoogle settings. Unlike many iGoogle alternatives, no conversion steps are needed. Follow the instructions on the "Import from iGoogle" page at igHome to get your iGoogle settings and import them directly into igHome. As the instructions state, you may not be able to import many iGoogle gadgets to igHome, but you should be able to import most of your RSS feeds. Information on modifying RSS feeds, gadgets and tabs is further below.

My Profile - Import from OPML

Following import from iGoogle is the option to import an OPML file. Many news readers can generate an OPML file to allow for the export of RSS feeds from one news reader to another. You can learn more about OPML files here. To import an OPML file, follow the instructions on the "Import from OPML" page at igHome. Hopefully, Mike and his team will be able to make time to add an export to OPML option too.

Messages

Returning to the dashboard (select the igHome icon in the top left corner), then selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner, the next setting option after Profile is Messages. Messages is the equivalent of igHome's blog. Don't expect to see a lot here in the short term. Mike and his team have been pretty busy since last October 2012 building igHome.

Hide Search

Returning to the dashboard (select the igHome icon in the top left corner), then selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner, the next setting option after Messages is Hide Search. That does what you would expect. It hides the search bar at the top of the dashboard, allowing more of your dashboard to be seen without scrolling. It also hides the Add RSS Feed and Add Gadgets buttons, but see further below for another way to add them. You can unhide the search bar by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, then selecting "Show Search".

Hide Share Icons

After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Hide Search is Hide Share Icons. That also does what you would expect. It hides the sharing icons near the top right corner of the dashboard. We don't know why you would want to do that because we know you'll want to share igHome with everyone. But if you do decide to hide the sharing icons, you have that option. You can unhide the sharing icons by selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, then selecting "Show Share Icons".

Adding and Modifying Tabs

Adding a tab (page) is done on the dashboard. Select the "Add Tab..." link on the tab bar near the top of the dashboard. A popup dialog box will appear. In that box enter the name of the tab and select the layout (number of columns). A tab's name and layout can be modified at any time by selecting the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of a tab when that tab is active.

Adding and Modifying RSS Feeds

After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Hide Share Icons is Add RSS Feed. Unless you've hidden the search bar, that option can also be accessed using the prominent "Add RSS Feed" button near the top right corner of the dashboard. Before selecting that option, go to the dashboard tab where you want to add the feed. After selecting "Add RSS Feed", a popup dialog box will appear. You can input an RSS address (URL) or a website address. If you input a website address, igHome is good about identifying the feed for that website as long as there is only one. If there are multiple feeds for a website, it's better to identify and input the RSS address in the dialog box. After adding a feed to a dashboard tab, you can customize it in the following ways:

  • select the title bar of a feed to drag and drop it where you want it located on a tab,
  • select the bottom border of a feed and drag it up to reduce the height of the feed or drag it down to increase the height of the feed, and
  • select the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of the feed to change its title, height, assigned tab, number of stories and several other options.

igHome also has a basic news reader that's a hidden feature. All feeds added to your igHome dashboard can be read at http://www.ighome.com/reader/. That's a link you might want to consider adding to igHome's black bar.

For those looking for a more powerful news reader, we recommend using Feedly in combination with igHome. By default, igHome includes a link to Feedly in the black bar. igHome also has a full-featured Feedly gadget we recommend adding to a one-column tab.

Adding and Modifying Gadgets

After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the next setting option after Add RSS Feed is Add Gadgets. Unless you've hidden the search bar, that option can also be accessed using the prominent "Add Gadgets" button near the top right corner of the dashboard. Before selecting that option, go to the dashboard tab where you want to add the gadget. After selecting "Add Gadgets", you will be taken to the gadget directory where you can search for gadgets or browse through directory categories. After finding a gadget you want to add, select the "Add It Now" button and you will be taken back to the dashboard tab you selected and the gadget will be added to that tab. After adding a gadget to a dashboard tab, you can customize it in the following ways:

  • select the title bar of a gadget to drag and drop it where you want it located on a tab,
  • select the bottom border of a gadget and drag it up to reduce the height of the gadget or drag it down to increase the height of the gadget, and
  • select the "e" (edit) icon in the top right corner of the gadget to change its title, height, assigned tab, header background color and header title color.

igHome also has the capability for you to create custom gadgets. In the gadget directory, look for the "Create Your Own Gadget" category at the bottom of the category list. Then, select "From a URL" or "From HTML/Javascript/Widget code" as appropriate. Custom gadgets also have a gear (settings) icon in the top right corner. Clicking on that icon allows you to make modifications to the gadget and gives you instructions on how to submit that custom gadget to the gadget directory.

Logout

After selecting the gear (settings) icon in the top right corner of the dashboard, the final setting option after Add Gadgets is Logout. We presume no explanation is necessary regarding the purpose of that option.

Other Resources

In igHome's footer (i.e., bottom of each dashboard and settings page), you'll find links to information for developers, igHome's privacy policy, and feedback and help. After selecting the feedback and help link, a popup dialog box will appear with options to browse the knowledge base, browse user feedback, submit a support request and submit feedback.

So there you have it, the most comprehensive coverage on igHome to date. It's a nearly distraction free personal dashboard that's easy to use and loaded with features. We'll see you there!


SaveiGoogle Editorial Postscripts

Since initially posting this story, igHome has experienced outages due to significantly increased activity caused by iGoogle's impending demise. They continue to increase resources to manage new user traffic and outages have generally been brief.

Please keep comments "on topic" discussing igHome and other iGoogle alternatives that have all or most personal dashboard features. Comments that are thinly veiled site promotions will be removed.

Posted in Announcement, iGoogle Alternatives, SaveiGoogle.org Exclusive

The Grim Reaper Is Coming For iGoogle!

Image courtesy of bandrat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bandrat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Halloween!

We probably need say no more, but the iGoogle gadget makers on our team are amazed that yesterday they still saw traffic that was about 50% of "normal".

What is everyone waiting for? You had to have gotten the memo by now. iGoogle meets its maker in less than 24 hours. Quit procrastinating, it's time to leave!

Can't decide what to do? Read Our iGoogle Alternative? We’re Going Home, igHome! It's got a long list of alternatives and complete guide for setting up igHome.

Posted in iGoogle, Observation

iGoogle Dialog Bomb Has Users Running For Alternatives! SaveiGoogle Endorsement Delayed!

The following little gem popping up on iGoogle dashboards worldwide has given users a less than subtle reminder about the eminent demise of iGoogle...one month to go.

igoogle-dialog-bomb

The resulting user response has inundated several iGoogle alternatives with new traffic and significantly reduced response time. So we don't make the situation any worse, we're going to delay our endorsement post until 2pm ET, allowing time for alternatives to add resources to handle the new traffic.

Update: At 11:30am MT, SaveiGoogle.org has already experienced 10 times it's average daily traffic. Those of us that host gadgets for various dashboard sites are also seeing much higher than normal traffic. SaveiGoogle.org doesn't require nearly as many resources to operate as some iGoogle replacements so we don't "feel their pain", but we do sympathize with them.

Posted in iGoogle

Time To Move On! Find Out Who We Endorse On Tuesday!

Remember this cartoon from back in August 2012 (What’s A Mouse To Do?) We still feel the way we did then about Google retiring iGoogle. Unfortunately, it became pretty clear last November that the Save iGoogle Campaign was going nowhere. However, the rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated. Over the last eleven months we've continued to try to respond to all requests while patiently watching and waiting. We left the campaign page up until today for anyone who might want to vent some frustration, along with the partially complete Alternatives list and all other site content.

Like many of you, we've been looking for lightning to strike, a magic moment, a site we could immediately identify as "the one!" We saw a number of startups and established sites talk a good game, but never reach their potential. Then again, sometimes the tortoise is the one to win the race. They keep things uncomplicated and plug along steadily building content, reliability, a good name and a loyal following. Such is the iGoogle alternative we're going to recommend next Tuesday morning at about 10am ET, one month before iGoogle shuts down. And, with that recommendation we'll give the most complete guide to date on that site's features and settings, including tips that some of it's most loyal users may not know, and information from an interview we've already completed with the site operator.

Many thanks to everyone who's partnered with us over the last 15 months! It's time to move on! Find out where we're headed on Tuesday!

And oh, by the way, the Alternatives list, it's coming down on Tuesday when we make our recommendation. If you want to check it out, you better go do it now.

Posted in Announcement, iGoogle Alternatives, SaveiGoogle.org Exclusive

What Have We Been Doing? This, That and November SaveiGoogle Day

Over the past month, we haven't been hiding under a rock. There just hasn't been much to write. Sure, we could have announced updates to the Alternatives list or talked about when we made news. But, we didn't see either as all that newsworthy. We could even be lamenting iGoogle's demise one year from today. Instead, we'll continue to keep doing what we're doing, like getting ready to give away what may end up being rare collectible swag on the first Save iGoogle Day tomorrow!

Unfortunately, we have to limit swag distribution to US residents, but we urge everyone to take part in SaveiGoogle Days. The rules for a chance to win some swag during the November Save iGoogle Day are:

  1. Between 11am EDT and 11pm EDT on November 2, 2012, do the following:
    • Add a comment to the November Save iGoogle Day thread started by SaveiGoogle.org at the iGoogle Personal Homepage forum for a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org keychain flashlight.
    • Retweet the November Save iGoogle Day tweet sent at Twitter by @SaveiGoogle for a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org keychain flashlight.
    • Repin the November SaveiGoogle Day pin sent at Pinterest by SaveiGoogle for a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org keychain flashlight.
    • Share the November SaveiGoogle Day post sent at Google+ by SaveiGoogle.org for a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org keychain flashlight.
    • Share the November SaveiGoogle Day status update sent at Facebook by Don't kill iGoogle for a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org keychain flashlight.
  2. Everyone that completes one of the above will also receive a chance to win one SaveiGoogle.org embroidered hat. Do all five of the above and receive five chances to receive the hat.
  3. Random drawings for winners will be completed by Sunday, November 3, 2012 and winners will be contacted that day.
  4. Swag distribution is limited to one item per person per SaveiGoogle Day.
  5. We reserve the right to change the rules for swag distribution without notice, including increasing the amount of swag distributed per SaveiGoogle Day.
Posted in Announcement, iGoogle, Save iGoogle Days, SaveiGoogle.org Exclusive

Save iGoogle Days Begin November 2! Google Blackout Days Cancelled!

Unlike Google, we take your input seriously! A Stop SOPA style monthly gadget blackout sounded like a good idea at the time, but will just add to user angst like that caused by Labpixies (a Google company) premature termination of its birthday gadget, Gadgeteer pulling the plug on all their gadgets and Google killing its weather API. The monthly Google Blackout Days planned to start on October 1, 2012 are cancelled!

Instead, let's have some fun with Save iGoogle Days starting on November 2, 2012! We'll have more details soon, but we can tell you everyone that participates at the iGoogle Personal Homepage forum, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and/or Twitter will get a chance to win some swag.

Posted in Announcement, iGoogle, SaveiGoogle.org Exclusive, Volunteer

Bing It On, Hooray For Mozilla & GeekDad’s Dream App

A little more catchy than "In Case You Missed It #5?" We hope so! Anyway...

Bing It On

In case you need more motivation to check out alternatives to the "new" evil (Google) empire. The "old" evil (Microsoft) empire is giving everyone the opportunity to do a blind comparison of Google and Bing search results at Bing It On. Unless you run into the Bing team on the street, you won't have to give them the shirt off your back if Bing does better than Google. And, if you care to tweet about Bing It On, Microsoft is offering a big box of "awesome" Microsoft swag at bingsweeps.com.

Hooray For Mozilla

Kjetil Hartveit is absolutely right about Mozilla doing the right thing by making the source code for it's iOS Sync client available on GitHub. However unlikely, we can still hope for the same from Google on the iGoogle container, the Google Gadget Editor and the theme and gadget directories. For what it's worth, Google did step up and open source Google Wave, now Apache Wave.

GeekDad's Dream App

GeekDad's got a pretty good app idea over at Wired. Would someone get on it? In that story's comments, we mentioned Kitedesk as an option. We just got our beta invite and will be evaluating features for our Alternatives list soon.

Postscripts

Backstitch just launched a public beta today. Don't expect much yet. But, it looks promising. Currently it's focused on integrating news, photos, social and shopping within gadgets (patterns) and a reader (threads). It does have an RSS Feed gadget. There is no mobile capability, email, calendar, OPML import, sharing or broad base of gadgets.

Good to see Google put its considerable resources into supporting all those users clamoring for the "Bacon Number" instead of iGoogle!

We've made a few more updates to our Alternatives list. This update focused on adding a few potential options, eliminating a few options and changes based on your suggestions.

Posted in iGoogle, iGoogle Alternatives, News Story, Other Blog

Draft Alternatives List

Without further delay, our Alternatives list is available. Please recognize this is a work in progress. We would like it to be complete too, but it takes time to identify alternatives, define a set of criteria for consistent evaluation and complete feature verification and testing across multiple browsers and operating systems.  Many volunteer hours are going into developing the comparative alternatives list. To date, we've:

  • identified or received suggestions for 80 potential iGoogle alternatives,
  • verified and tested features for 17 alternatives,
  • eliminated 15 alternatives from the list for a variety of reasons, and
  • are working on the 48 other alternatives.

As it's not final, you won't find the list on the SaveiGoogle.org sitemap or menu. Contact Us if you think there is an alternative we missed or feature we need to consider.

Posted in Announcement, iGoogle Alternatives, SaveiGoogle.org Exclusive

Google Creates Another Storm By Killing Weather API

Earlier this week, The Next Web reported Google quietly killed it's Weather API (the API is what makes Google's iGoogle Weather gadget work). For most iGoogle users, killing the API was no big deal. Google quietly replaced it in the iGoogle gadget with one from Weather Underground. So what is the big deal?

Even though the API was "private" and Google was "within it's rights" to pull it without notice,  it's an open secret many developers use it in apps that are no longer functioning. The weather widget in Awesome New Tab Page, among the Chrome Apps that Google is counting on to replace iGoogle, was down. And, there's plenty of unhappy comment about it in the twitterverse.  Considering "everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct", a little notice would have been the right thing to do. Developers, you may be able to find a suitable replacement API at ProgrammableWeb.

This is another action that gives consumers, developers and enterprise users one more reason to question Google integrity and focus. At SaveiGoogle.org, we know making value judgments are usually a no win situation. But, really? Keeping the Weather API and iGoogle, with uses like those noted in the pictured comment from ianray at "Don't take my iGoogle away!", is less important than developing Google+ Hangouts effects? It may be cute and fun, but how does a Chief Technology Officer explain that "feature" when describing business benefits of Google+ Hangouts?

P.S. We know, we owe you a list of iGoogle alternatives! The list we're evaluating has grown to over 75! Even if the feature list isn't complete, we'll publish a draft by Tuesday.

Posted in News Story, Observation, Rant

In Case You Missed It – Top Stories #4

Those looking for an iGoogle replacement have a new developer to watch! Josh Jordan has declared in iGoogle Discontinued – I might recreate it!:

...I have started to turn the cogs on this project. I have some really interesting ideas that could enhance the iGoogle experience...

Carol went on a "techy toy/app mission" to replace some iGoogle functionality at Wonder if Toodledo Can Help Me Produce? and found:

Over all I feel I have been more productive.

For those interested in finding a new task manager, we also suggest reading Top 10 Apps: Web-based Task Managers.

In closing, we wonder whether iGoogle's retirement is common knowledge what with a July 3 announcement, summer holidays and what not. We continue to see a number of stories that show authors are unaware (and they are not content scrapers). Two examples from the last week:

If these reasonably tech savvy folks are not "in the know", maybe there are many, many others that need to be reached with the Save iGoogle message!?

P.S. Kudos to Ellen for mentioning IFTTT...a cool tool...definitely something we'll try to use at SaveiGoogle.org to announce new content.

Posted in iGoogle, News Story, Other Blog