Google keeps killing products users love. Here are some great alternatives.
Credit: Google image via AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA / Shutterstock.com
Remember Google Buzz? How about Google Answers? Knol? These are just three of the many Google products that search giant has axed over the years as it made room to create and expand newer projects. Next on the list? iGoogle.
Some of them, people couldn't care less about, and many they may have never even heard of. But then there are services that people actually use and need, such as Google Talk, which was replaced by Hangouts; the Google Voice app for Blackberry that completely disappeared; and Google Apps, which once was free, but is free no more.
Here are some alternatives to iGoogle and the other Google tools you miss.
Sign in to iGoogle — Google's customizable home page where users can view Gmail, the weather, newsfeeds, to-do lists and other Google Gadgets in one page — before Nov. 1 and you will be greeted with an alert counting down the days before the beloved landing page dies. Citing the "unforeseen evolution of Web and mobile apps and the erosion of the need for the site," Google announced that they will be retiring iGoogle before the end of the year.
While it seems like nothing will ever replace one of the few Google legacy products that people still use to this day, there are several iGoogle alternatives to help users cope with the loss:
- igHome, which mirrors iGoogle's layout, was meant "to create a site that looked and worked like iGoogle as much as possible to make the transition easy for users," said igHome developer Mike Sutton. Like iGoogle, users can also add gadgets and quick-access links to Google services such as Gmail, Calendar, Drive and more.
- Netvibes, a more advanced version of iGoogle, has nearly 100,000 apps and thousands of themes to personalize your iGoogle-like homepage. It also includes social media integration and all types of widgets, such as RSS feeds, bookmarklets and more. Personal accounts are free, but enterprise accounts are also available for $499 a month.
- My Yahoo, Yahoo's customizable home page, lets users "Get your headlines, email, quotes and more — all in one page." Much like iGoogle, My Yahoo offers personalized widgets, from weather apps to recommended newsfeeds, RSS feeds from your favorite websites, sports scoreboards and more. Although Google products are not accessible through My Yahoo, the service does allow users to import iGoogle data and settings.
- my msn, Microsoft's take on iGoogle, also does not integrate with Google products, but will do the job if all you need is a content-based home page. After signing in with a Microsoft account, users can add RSS feeds and up to four recommended content categories, such as health, technology, entertainment, news, sports, money, lifestyle and videos.
Postini is one of the most popular spam-filtering and email-archiving tools. It was founded in 1999 and acquired by Google in 2007. By the end of 2013, however, Postini's 26 million users will have to say goodbye to the program forever and make one of two choices: transition to Google Apps — Google's paid, cloud-based productivity suite, which will take over Postini — or migrate to a different provider.
"This is likely a strategic move by Google. By retiring Postini and transitioning users to Google Apps, Google is able to leverage their brand and gain a larger share of the market," said Julie May, founder and CEO of bytes of knowledge, a software programming, Internet marketing and managed IT service provider.
Making the decision to switch to Google Apps or an alternative solution — then finally making the move — is never easy. But now is a better time than ever to evaluate your business needs and your satisfaction with Google Apps' offerings, May said. For instance, if Google Apps does not provide the features or level of email security you need, then it makes sense to switch to a different service, she said.
"Depending on your budget and the size of your business, it may benefit from or need additional services, such as email continuity and encryption, neither of which are included in either of Google Apps' new services," May said. "The key is to ask yourself if you are using the right technology for your business' needs."
Ensuring a smooth transition requires preparation, May said.
"It's important to plan ahead and make sure your new spam provider is in place by the time your Postini contract is up," she said. "This way, you won't lose important emails or have your inbox flooded with spam."
Google Reader alternative
As alternatives to Google Reader, the company suggested several apps, such as Feedly, Digg Reader, InoReader, NewsBlur, Flipboard and the Pulse mobile app. Feedly quickly became the top choice amongst former Google Reader users, primarily due to its simple interface, which most resembles the Google Reader of yore.
"Having quick access to massive amounts of information — latest events in tech, acquisitions, funding, etc. — is crucial to running our business," said Ryan Kulp, who runs marketing at ShuttleCloud, a New York City-based cloud data-management and migration provider. "When Google Reader shut down, we were a bit frantic."
Feedly, it turned out, was exactly what they needed. "We discovered Feedly and have been very happy with it," he said.
In addition to RSS aggregation, Feedly also offers modern upgrades lacking in Google Reader.
"[Feedly] is actually faster, cleaner and better designed than Google Reader, along with [offering] more integrations to popular sharing tools, like Buffer and Pinterest," Kulp said.
Google Adwords Keyword Tool alternatives
Much to the dismay of most website owners, bloggers and search engine optimization (SEO) pros, Google recently pulled the plug on the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The service, which enabled anyone to research keywords for free, has now been replaced by the Keyword Planner.
"Keyword research is an essential method for developing content tactics for our customers or for targeting AdWord campaigns on Google — inexpensively," said Jeff Reynolds, marketing director at VivioSoft, an Ohio-based Web solutions provider.
The tool was originally meant to assist advertisers in choosing which keywords or keyword phrases to use to bid on and plan effective AdWords campaigns. However, the program offered enormous assistance in researching and planning for a variety of different online behaviors, Reynolds said.
"We were devastated by Google's decision to take away the very useful keyword popularity tool, Reynolds said.
Describing the new tool as "blah, at best," Reynolds said the new Keyword Planner no longer serves his business' requirements for discovering "juicy" and inexpensive keywords or keyword phrases to attract customers.
"In addition to requiring users to register and login to their AdWords account to access the less-than-adequate tool — the original tool was accessible without a log-in — the majority of usefulness and research functionality are all but stripped away," he said.
VivioSoft then tried to find the best Keywords Tool replacements. "We suggest that all smart business owners and marketers alike should add the following to their arsenal of resources and research tools: SEO Book, Ubersuggest, WordPot and Wordtracker."
Google Alerts alternatives
Want to receive an email every time you and your company are mentioned on the Web? Need to keep tabs on your competitors online? Google Alerts used to effectively cater to these needs. All users had to do was enter a keyword or search query, and Google Alerts would send a notification whenever a new story citing those words was published. Google Alerts proved to be a great online monitoring tool for all types of users, particularly entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.
Granted, Google Alerts is still up and running. But with several reports that the service is losing its steam, with no signs of any fixes, many speculate that Google Alerts is next in line to be axed.
"Google hasn't retired Google Alerts, but many have reported that it's not as useful as it once was," said Janet Thaeler, an Internet marketer and author of "I Need a Killer Press Release — Now What???: A Guide to Online PR" (Happy About, 2009). "So I started using either Mention or Talkwalker."
Once upon a time, Picnik was Flickr's default photo editor. In 2010, Google acquired the editor; two years later, the search giant added Picnik to its growing list of Google Graveyard residents.
"The Picnik photo editing tool was bought by Google and then discontinued," said Thaeler. "Thankfully, some former employees from the company started my favorite replacement — PicMonkey."
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.