I was lost and in search of myself after hearing the devastating news on Ars Technica: Google Toolbar had been put down by the search giant after nearly 21 years — longer than most projects the company lets live. (A recent newsletter effort didn’t make it past three months).
There was no ceremony, no announcement, no moment of silence, nor any closure — just a “no longer available.” That’s what Google has now on its Install Google Toolbar help page; it tells you how to uninstall the Google Toolbar and install Chrome instead.
It feels unreal for Google to silently forsake a tool that was, in 2008, responsible for 12 percent of all Google searches — and then convince a new internet generation that everyone should just download Chrome if they love Googling so much. Chrome is great (fine?), but it isn’t what it used to be.
I have a confession: I was not a Google Toolbar user, but we had a relationship. Google Toolbar existed to help me blame it for my family’s and friends’ computer problems. If they ask me about tuning their computer or complained about websites loading slowly: I told them it’s the Google Toolbar, and I was happy to uninstall it for them.
It always seemed to work, too: removing not only Google Toolbar but also Yahoo! Toolbar, Ask Jeeves Toolbar, or any toolbar would give back so much screen real estate (we are talking about the 1024 x 768 screen resolution days of the 2000s) that there was at least the perception of a tune-up. Sure, I’d still end up going the extra mile and actually fix their real issues, but each removal of the omnipresent Google Toolbar felt almost like material change.
The popularity of Google Toolbar — and other browser toolbars — in the 2000s was what pushed web browsers to adopt web searches as a built-in feature. Internet Explorer 7 (2006) was one of the first browsers to have a dedicated search field next to the address bar, making web searches quick — though the default search engine was Microsoft Live Search, to the dismay of many. That’s why Google Toolbar would continue to thrive and build a dependence of Google services on users for years to come.
With Chrome dominating web browser usage since 2012, the redundant web search fields have finally come to an end. Now let’s get together and install Google Toolbar one last time to celebrate its life and let it rest in peace:
- Find a PC that has Internet Explorer, Preferably IE8 or newer. It could be your first build with a Pentium 4 and a Radeon All-In-Wonder that your family threatens to dump. The important thing is it should be a computer no one is using, cares about, or otherwise wouldn't mind toolbars being added to Internet Explorer. I found a PC running Windows XP x64 Edition, so that should work!
- Find and install Google Toolbar. Some freeware sites still have it, or if you’re lucky, there might be about three toolbar installers deep in the downloads folder of any old PC. Open the installer and run it. After install, it will close all browsers and reopen Internet Explorer. Congratulations, Google Toolbar is here!
- Consider your search options. You can Google on your new Google Toolbar, Google on Google.com, or Google in the Web Search field — though you would have to drop the default Live Search or Bing (in my case it was mywebsearch.com, which was probably set inadvertently or maliciously on this PC). In the Search Provider Default window that pops up, select Google (after all, this is a Google Toolbar tribute).
- Try signing in with your Google account for the full experience. Click on the Sign In button on the right side of the bar. You’ll get error messages and a wonky Google sign-in screen pop-up. If you enter your credentials, it will give you another error message, so maybe don’t bother. Let’s just pretend it works, quietly close the error messages, close the sign-in window, and continue.
- Enable geolocation. Go to Toolbar options > Tools under the wrench menu. Check “My Location.” We may as well contribute to a decade or two of targeted ad tracking while we’re at it, right?
- A moment of silence. Click on the About Toolbar tab. Gasp at the fact that you’ve just updated to the final version of Google Toolbar.
- Share your favorite sites to social media. Under the More button on the toolbar, you can translate the page, share to social media, and more. MySpace and Google Plus are the recommended places to share.
- Uninstall the toolbar (Optional). It’s so easy with just two clicks — next to the wrench icon in a drop-down menu click “Uninstall.” Or, instead, continue and you could get your Google Toolbar a companion.
- Get Yahoo! toolbar. Find it in the same place(s) where you found Google Toolbar. It’s the same steps, but scarier.
- Be bold. Make Yahoo! your default search engine, and commit to it.
- Experience search overload. Internet Explorer will ask you again about what default provider to use. Feel forever conflicted by choosing between the two... there’s not much more you can do.
- Time to put Google Toolbar to rest. Turn off the PC. If it’s a computer you don’t care about, skip the shutdown. Just hold the power button so the last thing the computer did was operate Google Toolbar. If you’ve made it this far, I’m proud of you. You’re a strong and beautiful human. Now we can finally lay Google Toolbar to rest.
- Bonus: I stumbled upon another relic, Google Desktop! Maybe you will find this on an old PC you procure. The program came out in 2007 (full release) and was basically a Sherlock — but for any PC. Google would index all your files so you could find anything, and interfaced through a web browser. Comes with a sidebar of widgets like weather and RSS feeds. I tried adding The Verge RSS feeds, but it wouldn't load. Google Desktop was discontinued in 2011.