Up till someday this previous week, deep within the bowels of Google headquarters, a dusty, forgotten server nonetheless whirred alongside. “Take the most effective of Google in all places on the internet!” it might shout to any poor soul who wandered by the darkened closet. “Google Toolbar is quicker, sleeker and extra personalised than ever earlier than!”
December 11 marked the birthday of Google Toolbar for Web Explorer, which Google inexplicably left working practically 21 years. We are saying “practically” as a result of we had this hands-on birthday submit written forward of time, asking, “How is that this venture nonetheless working?”, however somebody at Google was apparently on the identical wavelength. We gave the web site one final test earlier than publishing and found Google Toolbar is useless. Google shut down the web site someday prior to now week, simply earlier than its birthday. RIP.
As soon as upon a time, Toolbar.google.com supplied to information any wayward Web Explorer customers throughout the online with the ability of Google. Now, it redirects to a help web page saying “Google Toolbar is now not out there for set up. As an alternative, you possibly can obtain and set up Google Chrome.” The excellent news is that we wrote most of this submit on the finish of November, so this could be the Web’s final hands-on of the now-dead product.
Google Toolbar was launched on December 11, 2000, and marked the corporate’s first child step into browser possession. At this time, Google does end-to-end browser design with Google Chrome, however again within the 2000s, Web Explorer had a rock-solid monopoly. Moderately than idly sit by and dwell beneath Web Explorer’s rule, Google’s plan was to hijack Microsoft’s browser with numerous plugins. Toolbar was the primary, and it added an enormous, screaming search discipline to Microsoft’s browser, shouting to customers “Run a Google Search! (And possibly click on on an advert.)” Web Explorer 5 may solely deal with internet addresses within the tackle bar, so Google Toolbar was fairly useful, letting customers run a Google search from any web page on the Web. Google Toolbar helped change shopper habits and made looking out as common, or extra common, than typing in an tackle bar.
It additionally patched up long-neglected Web Explorer with new options, like highlighted search phrases in pages, pop-up blocking, spell test, autofill, and Google Translate. Section 2 of the hijack plan was Google Gears, which augmented IE with new APIs for internet builders. Ultimately, Google stopped fixing different firms’ browsers and launched Google Chrome in 2008, which might make all of this out of date.
Up till every week in the past, it was nonetheless potential to put in Google Toolbar, even on Home windows 10, with Web Explorer 11. So how may we not fireplace it up for its birthday? To say the app had been uncared for is an understatement. The about web page learn, “Copyright 2014 Google,” although Google positively stopped performing upkeep on Toolbar earlier than that. You could possibly nonetheless do a Google Search, and you might nonetheless signal into Google Toolbar, however a lot there was damaged or a time capsule from a bygone period.
Whereas Toolbar had managed to flee the Google Grim Reaper for some time, the icy hand of the corporate was seen throughout its design. The “share” settings had been a massacre, itemizing choices for Google Reader (killed July 2013), Orkut (killed September 2014), Google+ (killed April 2019), and Google Bookmarks (killed September 2021). There have been additionally search shortcuts for Google Weblog Search (killed Might 2011) and Picasa Internet Albums (useless Might 2016).
There have been additionally a ton of options that did not work anymore. Some buttons, just like the Google Toolbar “Button Gallery” and Google Information, had dropdown UIs that will load some little bit of internet code that was once hosted someplace in Google’s internet empire. That code is now not round, and so these buttons simply loaded tiny “429” HTTP error messages. The spell-check servers did not work anymore, and I could not translate something. The baked-in-by-default connections to Google+ and Google Bookmarks would additionally let you realize that these merchandise have been shut down. Even a few of the “working” integrations, like Gmail, did not actually work as a result of Gmail no longer supports Web Explorer.
Google Toolbar’s strategy to privateness was one other wild time capsule that confirmed how a lot the corporate has modified. There was an entire “privateness” web page within the settings, which listed, in plain English, what knowledge Google Toolbar collected, and it gave you some controls for these options. There have been additionally particular person “privateness” hyperlinks everywhere in the settings, subsequent to every characteristic that sends knowledge again to Google.