Google catches Portalitis

But we don't think it's serious

The company that did more than any other to end the disease of Portalitis in the dot com era has succumbed to the infection itself.

Google yesterday unveiled personalization features that allow the user to turn the famously spartan Google search page into a cluttered montage of its various services, and feeds from other sites.

Portalitis spread like an epidemic throughout web search engines in the late 1990s, although Google's minimal approach, along with the dot.com crash, helped stamp it out. A further infection broke out three years ago, but was confined to online music services.

Not surprisingly, staff at Yahoo! - which has frequently been accused of imitating Google's product roll-out - took the opportunity to gloat.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and some of us are quite flattered," wrote Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny. "Since it seems that you haven't settled on a name for this 'new' product, I'd like to suggest My Google. We've found that the whole 'my' thing works pretty well over here."

Ladies, please.

"I feel this is different to My Yahoo!" claimed Google product manager Marissa Mayer.

She's correct in one important respect: Google's My Google offers little of the range or flexibility of its chief rival at launch. Only four pre-selected news feeds are available, and not your own, the user can't choose how much of the feed to view, and there's no cosmetic customization. Maps, Local information, Usenet, the Directory and (perhaps thankfully) Froogle cannot be integrated into the personalized page.

This may change in the future, or it may not. Much like Orkut, My Google's half-hearted debut has the feel of something Google thinks it ought to do, rather than something it wants to do. If there's one aesthetic to which Google has been consistently faithful, it's one of minimal and uncluttered design.

You can catch a dose yourself, here

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