Personalized Start Pages: Microsoft, Google, Netvibes

Personalized Start Pages: Microsoft, Google, Netvibes

Summary: One of the new products that came out of Microsoft's Live announcements was the new Windows Live homepage, at live.com.

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TOPICS: Google
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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!

Topic: Google

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4 comments
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  • Interesting to see that

    M$ is using technology from the corporation it murdered (Netscape created javascript - and M$ didn't want or like it when it came out). Kinda like killing someone and taking their wedding ring for yourself . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • Netvibes

    Couldn't agree more. I've been very impressed with Netvibes. I checked out live.com and couldn't believe what a piece of garbage it was vs. Netvibes. Google could also do a much better job but the question is how much effort either MS or Google will actually put into their products?
    gregoryg
  • A new funky homepage!

    You might also be interested in a brand new start page available called Funky Homepage (www.FunkyHomepage.com). It's comprised mainly of Google gadgets (as well as Gadgets from other sources), live news feeds (with your choice of news provider), daily Bushisms, daily jokes, horoscopes, videos, weather (up to 5 locations), interactive calendar, Google calendar viewer (for up to 5 Google calendars), comic strips and lots more besides. It also lets you choose your own search engine, colour scheme, etc.

    Unlike many of the other personalised start pages available, there's no need to create an account and it's all already set up for you, with the most popular gadgets organised by category and sub-category. So there's virtually no setting-up work required by the user, making it ideal for the mainstream audience and those (like me) who can't be bothered to do all the work of setting up their own page. More adventurous (and less lazy) users can choose to add their own Google gadgets and RSS feeds, but most people just use the gadgets and tools provided.

    Unlike Netvibes, PageFlakes and all the other AJAX powered home pages, Funky Homepage does not use a drag and drop interface. Instead it allows you to select from a drop-down list of the most "popular" gadgets and feeds - "popular" according to the Google gadgets most popular list, that is. As such, it's not really intended to compete with the flexibility of Netvibes and PageFlakes, but instead is intended to address a gap in the market for those who want something a bit more funky than Google or Yahoo, but without all the setting up required of Netvibes and Pageflakes. So only the most popular gadgets are offered. Although it still maintains a large degree of flexibility for the more adventurous users, allowing them to enter their own feeds and gadgets, should they wish. Whether you like it or hate it, at least it offers an alternative from the plethora of AJAX-powered homepages that are now available.

    It's free to use and you can check it out at http://www.funkyhomepage.com
    mrblad@...
  • Phpcow Myweb

    PageFlakes, Netvibes, and the plethora of other start pages available to consumers. But, you might have noticed something about these products: they're for consumers.

    Check out http://www.phpcow.com/myweb which allowing you to offer those services to your customers or employees.
    phpcow.com