MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Google announced its personalized home page option on Thursday and outlined plans to build aggregation of RSS feeds into it over the next two months.
The service, which is available as a beta from the Google Labs site, allows users to create their own Google home pages featuring Googles expanding set of services, such as its Gmail e-mail, news search and Google Maps driving directions.
News of the personalized home page first broke earlier in the day during a press event at Googles campus here after presentation slides were accidentally leaked in a Webcast of the event.
With the move, Google is joining its top competitors in offering a way for individual users to create their own views into online services.
Both Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.s MSN offer personalized home pages and recently have expanded them to include outside sources by aggregating RSS feeds.
Among the ways Google is trying to differentiate its service from the offerings from Yahoo and MSN is by building the personalization on top of its existing home page. Once users personalize the page, which requires a Google log-in, they can toggle back to the standard Google home page by clicking a link.
The service also provides drop-and-drag functionality for moving around custom modules of content.
Users set up those modules by selecting from both Google services and third-party content. Among the other Google services included are weather, stock and movie information.
The first launch includes six external sources—the New York Times, the BBC, Slashdot, Wired News, Quote of the Day and Word of the Day.
Google originally had planned to launch the service on June 30 with the ability to add any RSS feed published on the Web, but axed that feature after moving up the first beta release, said Marissa Mayer, Googles director of consumer Web products.
Google expects to add RSS aggregation in the next month or two and to include a set of default feeds in its setup wizard, Mayer said during a follow-up interview.
The company also is working on ways to let users more easily subscribe to feeds with Web site buttons and widgets that automate the process, while still letting users add subscriptions by entering the URL of feeds in the services setup options, she said.
The personalized home pages grew out of a larger project at Google called “Fusion,” which started last year as the company began releasing a bevy of new services. The home-page feature is just one of many personalization options Google expects to come out of the Fusion project.
“The aim was to fuse together Google functionality along with content on the Web in a unique way,” Mayer said.
During the media event, Mayer and other Google executives faced repeated questions about how the personalized home-page move fits into the companys intense competition with Yahoo and MSN.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that competition wasnt the driving factor for the company and disputed the suggestion that the service was that similar to other personalized home-page offerings.
“The dynamic and internal planning is not about competing with existing offerings, but trying to do something new,” he said. “We wont do something thats just the same.”
Still, if its competitors are any example, Googles personalized home pages also may help it draw more visitors to its online services. As far as the number of unique U.S. visitors to its site goes, Google trails Yahoo, MSN and America Online Inc., though it accounts for the largest share of search queries, according to data from ComScore Networks Inc.
But for Yahoo alone, its personalized My Yahoo service, the largest of its kind, drew 23 percent of Yahoos total unique site visitors in April, ComScore reported. Google may be anticipating similar results.