Google Toolbar Turns 8 – And Its Changed The Way We Use The Web

30 10 2008

As the dust settles on Google’s 10th birthday celebrations, another milestone comes creeping up. And we haven’t even bought it a card!

Google Toolbar is reaching its eighth year, and to make it feel like it hasn’t been completely overshadowed by the bigger occasion, Google have released a new IE version of the handy, little bar.

Google have also taken the time to look back at why they first started their toolbar project.

My own personal use of the Google Toolbar is limited. I only really use it to monitor the page rank of my work site and other areas of the Internet I frequent and I use the Gmail button as a shortcut to my inbox. Other than that I’ve not used it any more than the search box that comes at the top right of my Firefox window. However, I can see how, to some, it is immensely useful with its tidy search box and unobtrusive design. I certainly rank it highly in the world of toolbars, and I suppose for a minimalist like me to allow it to sully my clean browser design, it must be something special.

The Official Google Blog, or rather reminisce about the state of the Internet, pre-toolbar, in 1999:

At that time, you had to fight annoying pop-up ads that would randomly appear as you navigated from one page to another. You had to fill in endless forms with your personal information in order to create accounts for websites you wanted to use. And when you wanted to find information on your airline’s luggage policy, you spent more time finding the right search terms to get you there than actually packing for your trip.

Google noticed the web was in a bit of a mess, so it did what it does best: Focussed on end user experience. They created the idea of a toolbar to allow users to control their Internet experience. The Toolbar team came along with functionality that has been embraced as standard by some browsers and search engines:

The Toolbar team was formed to develop tools to make your web experience better, so we created features like pop-up blocker and AutoFill. We also built a dynamic search box that automatically guesses what you’re typing and offers search suggestions in real time.

Google set a precedent with their ad-blocking toolbar, a service we now take for granted, with modern browsers like Firefox blocking pop-ups as standard. You will also see Google’s rivals Yahoo! and MSN using the auto-fill for their search. Where Google treads, others are sure to follow.

So the future of the way we use the Internet may be changed again with Google’s newest list of features for the IE release of the Toolbar:

  • Add gadgets to your Toolbar to bring content from your favorite websites closer to you
  • Synchronize your settings online to access your Toolbar from wherever you are
  • Create multiple profiles in AutoFill to keep your business and personal information separate

I always used to consider toolbars another way of cluttering your screen, but with the right minds behind the development, it can change your whole experience of the Internet now and in the future.

So happy birthday to the Google Toolbar!

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