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iGoogle launch fingered in user data loss furore

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After thousands of Google users lost their calendar and digital sticky notes when personalised settings mysteriously disappeared last week, the explanation seems to be "iGoogle".

According to the Google blog, staff at the search giant call their customised Google homepages iGoogle, and the functions of iGoogle were released to the general internet public on Tuesday.

"Developers around the world have been working hard to make more and more of the world's content available for iGoogle," Google software engineer Sophia Brueckner said on the official Google blog.

It seems that updating Google to support the iGoogle collection of personalised gadgets such as photograph updates, instant messaging service, and a YouTube video channel might have caused the foul up last Friday when many Google homepages reverted to former settings, causing reams of data stored on homepages to be lost in "Britain, Ireland and one other European market", according to a Google spokesman.

Google engineers are currently looking into the cause of the error, and the company said a quantity of lost data had been restored to personalised homepages.

Meanwhile more than 25,000 of these new iGoogle gadgets have been created, according to reports.

GoogleGram is an unfolding "greeting card" gadget that shows personalised messages and images over seven days. The Daily Me is a miniblog service, and there is also a Free Form gadget for displaying any text or images. The Personal List gadget is a collection of individual favourites such as songs or TV shows, and a Countdown timer crosses off the days ahead of important events.

The company is also announcing a new area on the gadget directory called My Community that will let people share the gadgets they've created with anyone in their Gmail contacts list.

These iGoogle "gadgets" are also customisable, and the search engine giant has set up a web page to explain how to make a DIY Google homepage. This means users can fiddle with familiar Google widgets such as the Currency Converter to create a little piece of individually tailored software.

However, with the recent system crash that scrubbed clean important diary notes and other vital information for an untold number of internet users still fresh in the mind, questions are being raised as to the wisdom of keeping important data on a commercial web service which can cock things up from time to time.

For its part, Google said people were free to choose to keep their information on their service or not.

"People are aware that when we release a new innovation it will be in beta and is 60 to 70 per cent ready," said a Google spokesman speaking with ENN. "When people do raise an issue with a problem we do spend considerable time trying to solve it."

Commentators have also been speculating that the iGoogle name may be a sideswipe at Apple who has been notoriously litigious over any perceived unauthorised use of its iconic iPod trademark. Alternatives like MyGoogle and YouGoogle have been proposed amongst the numerous online discussion groups with an interest in the Californian internet giant.

The company has not made any noises about placing personalised ads on the new iGoogle personalised homepage, but industry observers are fairly confident it is only a matter of time.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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