Ars Technica’s reviews editor remembers how Google Toolbar launched back when Internet Explorer “had a rock-solid monopoly” on December 11, 2000, and marked Google’s first foray into browser ownership. “Rather than idly sit by and live under Internet Explorer’s rule, Google’s plan was to hijack Microsoft’s browser with various plugins.”
Once upon a time, Toolbar.google.com offered to guide any wayward Internet Explorer users across the web with the power of Google…. It also patched up long-neglected Internet Explorer with new features, like highlighted search terms in pages, pop-up blocking, spell check, autofill, and Google Translate. Phase 2 of the hijack plan was Google Gears, which augmented IE with new APIs for web developers. Eventually, Google stopped fixing other companies’ browsers and launched Google Chrome in 2008, which would make all of this obsolete.
But it ended as Google finally pulled the plug this week on “a dusty, forgotten server” that had spent nearly 21 years blurting out “Take the best of Google everywhere on the web!”
Now, it redirects to a support page saying “Google Toolbar is no longer available for installation. Instead, you can download and install Google Chrome.” The good news is that we wrote most of this post at the end of November, so this might be the Internet’s very last hands-on of the now-dead product….
To say the app had been neglected is an understatement. The about page read, “Copyright 2014 Google,” though Google definitely stopped performing maintenance on Toolbar before that. You could still do a Google Search, and you could still sign into Google Toolbar, but so much there was broken or a time capsule from a bygone era….
The “share” settings were a bloodbath, listing options for Google Reader (killed July 2013), Orkut (killed September 2014), Google+ (killed April 2019), and Google Bookmarks (killed September 2021). There were also search shortcuts for Google Blog Search (killed May 2011) and Picasa Web Albums (dead May 2016)….
The spell-check servers didn’t work anymore, and I couldn’t translate anything. The baked-in-by-default connections to Google+ and Google Bookmarks would also let you know that those products have been shut down. Even some of the “working” integrations, like Gmail, didn’t really work because Gmail no longer supports Internet Explorer….
One feature that really blew my mind was a button that said, “Turn off features that send information.” Google Toolbar apparently had a one-click privacy kill switch back in the day.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.