You may recall that I made it clear that I thought iGoogle was a stupid name because it interfered with the Google brand. Maybe so, but it's not a stupid concept. In fact, it's downright ingenious and Google deserves kudos for the design.
The concept is simply this. You can create a home page for yourself that is made up on of individual gadgets. The page has the Web 2.0 classic desktop look and feel in that it enables you to not only add gadgets but drag and drop them to rearrange them on the page and organize your stuff in separate tabs. Each gadget includes a little drop-down menu enabling you to customize it for your needs, send it to a friend or find other related gadgets you might like .
The gadgets are not just fluff either. There are incredibly useful ones such as a MapQuest gadget (shown above) for finding driving directions without moving to the MapQuest web site. I also like the lyrics search gadget as I love quoting lyrics and the journalist in me wants to make sure I'm remembering them accurately. Of course, you can incorporate any Google tool into your page including GMail and GTalk and Google has provided the tools for creating your own gadgets.
These are appear to be fairly basic so far and include one for creating a personal picture gadget, a gadget about your schedule or your own YouTube channel. Most of this stuff appears aimed at the young and hip who want to point their friends to stuff about them, but there is also one all-purpose one that enables you to combine text and images in any fashion you like. There is also a social networking component as you can create a community of people who share gadgets.
Finally, you can change themes, although when I chose a theme, nothing changed. I'm not sure if my machine's settings are blocking this or if there is a glitch with the themes, but the idea is a good one and I'm sure they will develop more interesting ones than the current initial crop.
One other issue I had was trying to customize my tabs. I thought the purpose was to have tabs with different information, which would make sense. That means I might have stuff like the MapQuest gadget on my Home Page, but on not on my Technology News tab. In theory this seems great, but when I tried to customize the Technology News tab by closing the MapQuest gadget, my changes didn't stick. A work in progress it seems.
Regardless of the 1.0 hiccups, this is good stuff. Google (iGoogle, whatever) might have messed with the brand with the name, but it kept sound technology underpinnings, just as you knew it would. Sure, it needs some tweaks, but if Google fixes the glitches, this has some real potential.