Monday, July 23, 2007

Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong....Lafayette?

Google, the US' premier internet company, is testing new designs for its search page and its igoogle homepage...bu only in places where big bandwidth is available. According to a PC World article Sergey Brin, Google co-founder and president of technology, said:
"We're actually now experimenting with trying new kinds of homepages, for example in Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, that are a completely different type than we've tried before on our U.S. site...

"We think [the new design] will be more appropriate for the local cultures, and their context, and their broadband connections, which, for example in Korea, are extraordinarily fast," Brin said, adding that response to the new site designs had been "quite positive."
Google has been famous for NOT crowding its basic search page with extraneous (and self-serving) ads or cross-promotions. As a consequence their search page has a reputation for loading quickly and cleanly. Apparently, having gobs of extra bandwidth encourages Google to experiment with changes that include animated icons though the additions are still modest by anyone else's standards. (Check out the Korean search page.)

Google's user homepage system, iGoogle, gets an upgrade in faster places as well. Tabbed "gadget boxes" are a staple of the new design in fiber-rich locales and small animated graphics are featured as well. (Taiwan's)

iGoogle has fascinated me for awhile now. It is similar to a system envisioned nearly 3 years ago by Lafayette's Digital Divide Committee as a way to make localized information available and to allow users to customize the page by choosing the modules they were interested in. In that vision you could get the feed from your church, or the sports feed, or find local computer repair or babysitters... The hope was encourage more extensive use of modern networks by making the net more useful for local tasks. Back then it was pretty much a pipe dream. Each box on the page (what Google calls a gadget) would have been pretty much handbuilt and the whole system would have to have been backed up with a locally created and maintained server and programming team. Changing the box's placement on the page columns would have to have been mediated by an awkward panel. It's amazing how fast the future comes in some areas: with the maturation of RSS feeds and the arrival of easy to use tools like Yahoo Pipes and Google Gadgets that project is now conceivable as something a single competent programmer (or a determined neophyte) could tinker together using those tools and end up with a very sophisticated face that would include drag and drop rearrangement of the page and multiple personal pages for different purposes—you could have a separate local tabs for "local news," "kids stuff," "my sports," and "business stuff."

Lafayette could use the nifty extra features iGoogle uses in Asia for a sporty new local website. And with the coming bandwidth from LUS it could easily match the speeds available there.

Maybe someone could ask Google if they need an US testbed?


(Thanks to Mike who suggested the link—and the title. :-))

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