As a fashionable internet denizen, you do not use a homepage, probably. You open a new browser window or tab, and you’re met with your Chrome apps, Safari favourites or whatever the hell Firefox is doing now. And if you do have one, it’s probably a legacy media hub like MSN or Yahoo, or a search page like Google or Bing. But what if the web found a way for a landing page to be useful again?
According to GoogleSystem, Google has live code that suggests it’s working on bringing its Google Now feature to the web. Not just the web, but the Google search page — basically the most frequented and iconic web page on the planet. And that would be awesome.
Google Now is maybe the most powerful convergence Google has ever conjured up. It’s the proto-synthesis of the decision-making future Mountain View promised us in exchange for gobbling up reams of personal, often sensitive data about our lives. Leaning on its access to your calendar, email, search history and GPS locations, Google Now combines your interests, upcoming calendar events, daily commutes complete with delays and detours, scheduled flights and the weather automatically, without you having to fuss and customise the way it’s presented. Pop it open on your phone in the evening, and it might display the weather, the rugby score, and what time the next train back to your apartment leaves. The first time you make a train you’d have otherwise missed or find a card with directions to a restaurant you just searched for waiting for you, you’ll understand. It’s hugely convenient, and there’s nothing exactly like it on the web.
All of those things are passably easy to find online, of course. And many of us have set ourselves up with alerts and reminders and info streams to never be behind on any of that. But that’s not the point. The point is omnipresence and omnipotence. Google Now on the Google homepage would be your own little HUD, customised and curated for you, on literally any computer you sign into your Google account on. It’d be absolute ease of access, across platforms (a hobby horse for Google lately), in a way that wouldn’t require you to do anything. Just sign in. Use your stuff. And when you want a quick overview of what’s going on in your life, pop open Google.com. There is no reason you would ever, while sitting at a computer desk, feel compelled to pick up your phone to more easily access information.
A look at the code discovered by Florian
Google has tried this before, of course. iGoogle was an early ancestor of Google Now, without the automated features and location info and, frankly, competent design. It was ugly and little used and will be closed for good on November 1 of this year (the mobile version was closed last July, which coincided with the rise of Google Now). But the power of Now is that it’s not piecemealed together from a bunch of different services and startups; it’s simple, easy. It just works. And, for a lot of people, especially those who don’t have smartphones and for whom the browser, or the Google homepage, represents the whole of the internet, that’s powerful.
There’s been pushback against any invasion of Google’s once-sterile home space, including the now omni-present navigation bar, and more recently the inclusion of Google+ birthdays. A lot of that has to do with those being implemented as a no-choice, pre-opted-in, no-opt-out decisions on Google’s part. Some more had to do with sentimentality over the clean white piece of paper greeting everyone to the internet at Google’s front door. Neither of those camps would be especially happy with this change, but who cares? The alternatives aren’t far removed from what a Google Now search page would probably look like — Bing is no less busy than a Google Now homepage would be. And further, the proliferation of “omnibox” searches has rapidly turned the search page into a vestigial headpiece of search as an actual tool.
So, make Google.com something useful that people actually want to go to. It isn’t a sure thing that Google’s going to do this — code buried in a stray page off in internet Siberia isn’t a promise of implementation — but there’s every reason that this should work. And that it would be wonderful.