One of the new products that came out of Microsoft's Live announcements was the new Windows Live homepage, at live.com. When I first saw it, I thought it was just start.com with a new name. Start.com you'll remember is the experimental personalized hompage / RSS Reader that made it into the public eye in March this year. Well, live.com has almost the same AJAX menu and RSS features as start.com.
Turns out I wasn't far wrong and that start.com is seen, by the Microsoft team that developed it, as a prototype for live.com. Start.com was the experiment, live.com is the result. Also live.com has several new features - specifically email (not Hotmail, but a trendy new AJAX version named Windows Live Mail), an upgraded Messenger, and a Voice over IP product.
The only problem is, live.com is very buggy to actually use - it doesn't even perform as well as start.com. It's also an ugly, bare homepage with no color, style, or... verve about it. OK it's got "beta" scrawled on it, but still... this is the future of Microsoft web-based media?! Hmmm. There is some promise in the form of Microsoft Gadgets, which are third party developer add-ons and tools for live.com. But it's fair to say Live.com leaves a lot to the imagination at this point in time.
It's not only Microsoft that's come out with a sub-par personalized homepage. The Google Personalized Homepage, released in May this year, is equally ugly and awkward to use. Both products have tremendous potential, due to the sheer engineering prowess and market share Microsoft and Google have, but in both cases I wonder - surely they can do better than this now?
For an example of how to improve their personalized start pages, Microsoft and Google wouldn't go far wrong checking out Netvibes. Described on its About page as "a customizable web 2.0 homepage solution", Netvibes has the same 'personalized homepage' features as Microsoft and Google - RSS feeds, AJAX UI, email, weather. It also has the following list of features that it's already implemented, or plans to:
- Full managing of the my feeds section
- Search for feeds
- Bookmarks module
- Tag module
- Stock quotes module
- Flickr module
- Todo-list module
- Color themes
- User background image
- Read/Unread status
- Multiple pages
- OPML export
(as listed on the Netvibes blog)
Netvibes looks and feels slick and professional. The only problem is, I don't know how they're going to fare once Microsoft and Google get their personalized homepages up to scratch!