Internet search engine Google has squared up to rivals Yahoo and Microsoft with the launch of its own personalised web service.
Google's personalised service could look something like this
Google's pages will allow users to cram their favourite sites and information sources into a single space.
Yahoo and Microsoft already have their own versions offering news, weather, stocks, e-mail and blogs at one glance.
Google is keen, however, to keep people using its search engine as most of its revenue comes from web advertising.
The search industry is becoming more competitive as money spent on online advertising rockets, so Google is wary of users lingering on their personal home pages for too long.
Google is keen to stress that it is not turning itself into a portal.
Portals are a dirty word in the internet search world as they are said to be "sticky", keeping users on pages for extended periods.
"It's not a portal," stressed chief executive Eric Schmidt. "It's a personalisation tool."
To keep advertisers happy, Google needs to make sure users are still tapping into its search engine.
For now, Google will not place targeted adverts on personalised home pages. But it has not ruled out displaying them in the future, as the potential for boosting revenues could be irresistible.
In a project called Fusion, Google plans to offer a broad range of content for its personalised service including BBC News, The New York Times, technology website Slashdot and its own Quote of the Day and Word of the Day slots.
The Mountain View, California-based icon forecasts a complete RSS (Really Simple Syndication) rollout in one to two months.
Long time coming
Until now, Google has offered a jumble of unrelated services, such as Gmail for e-mail and Picasa for photo sharing. Its rivals, however, have already lumped their equivalent services onto single personalised pages.
Industry commentators have already remarked that a Google version is long overdue.
According to Comscore Networks, a measurer of web traffic, 25% of unique visitors to Yahoo also visit My Yahoo, so the potential impact on revenues is clear.
SHARE OF SEARCH QUERIES*
Google - 36.4%
Yahoo! - 30.6%
MSN - 16.5%
Time Warner - 8.9%
Ask Jeeves - 5.5%
But the world's number one internet search engine has always prided itself on its sparseness as a search launch pad, something which has hardly changed since its launch in September 1998.
This classic model will not change, Google has promised, and users will be able to toggle between their personalised home page and the traditional one.
"We really hope to have this not necessarily be a platform...but rather to help users navigate the web better," said Marissa Mayer, director of consumer web products at Google.
"Our philosophy is we want to get people off the Google site."
In April, Google reported a six fold rise in first-quarter income to $369.2m (£205m), fuelled by revenues from internet advertising.
Google's personalized home page currently only available in a test version at http://labs.google.com