Thursday, March 10, 2005

Customizing Google News

Google News soft-launched a feature last night that lets readers customize their Google News front page. Fun!

Much like My Yahoo, readers can rearrange news categories on the front page. For example, I moved "Business" and "Sci/Tech" to the top and removed "Entertainment". Readers can also add a custom section to the page that contains all news articles matching a keyword search. For example, I added a section with all news stories containing the word "Google".

This is customization, not personalization. It requires readers to explicitly customize the page; it doesn't learn implicitly from reader behavior. It requires effort. As easy as Google made it, the unfortunate truth is that the majority of Google News users won't bother with it. But it's fun for those of us who do like to tinker.

Unlike My Yahoo, Google News requires no registration or sign in to use. Readers can just go to Google News and customize immediately, a nice touch that reduces the effort required. Unlike My Yahoo, you can not add RSS feeds to your Google News page.

This is an intriguing move by Google. Until now, Google hasn't showed much interest in personalized portals like My Yahoo and My MSN. But this edges Google News closer to those products. Add a left column with stock quotes, weather, and other widgets, and you've got yourself a My Yahoo look-alike.

It's unclear where Google is going with this. Will we see a My Google that looks like My Yahoo? It's not like Google to launch something that's imitating other products in the marketplace. Google is about innovation, not imitation, and I expect we'll see them take their own path.

More coverage from Chris Sherman, Slashdot, and ZDNet.

Update: Nathan Weinberg posts a detail review including this very interesting tidbit:
    One possibly undocumented feature is that your customizations influence the secondary stories in the top right-hand corner of the page.
It's true. The "top stories" under the "Edit this customized page" link do appear to be influenced by how I've customized the page. Perhaps an experiment with greater personalization of the page?

Nathan also has some kind words for Findory. Thanks, Nathan!

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