YourMinis was a start-page service like no other, but its feature richness and happy users fall victim to the cold business logic that so many cool startups face after being acquired. YourMinis is now primarily used to power advertising widgets for AOL, a practice that will continue but pales in comparison to the beautiful topical pages its users built with the full service over the last several years.
YourMinis parent company Goowy built the only major all-Flash start-page in the crowded market of startups offering lightweight RSS readers with added functionality. In the email to users today, the company said:
"Because there are already so many great startpage solutions out there supporting yourminis (like myAOL, iGoogle or Netvibes), we've decided to let the startpage experts take care of the startpages, so we could focus on what we do best -- building widgets."
As several upset users pointed out in the blog post announcing the service's closure, though, none of these services are quite like YourMinis. The Flash interface, while disliked by some critics as all things Flash are, allowed fans greater flexibility in visual design.
Few if any of the many start-page startups have succeeded in their vision of becoming mini-publishing houses for users building content aggregation pages that are then shared with the world. See our interview last year with Dan Cohen, who has lead the team at Pageflakes, iGoogle and MyYahoo, for a great look into the start-page world.
All too often, this is how it goes in startup land. You fall in love with an innovative little service, you give it your attention, then it gets scooped up by a big player and everyone is happy until the acquiring company turns it into an ad network for crappy pop music and 3rd rate movies and then shuts down the original service you loved.
If you're addicted to the fringe startup start-page experience, check out recent sites bookmarked "startpage" in Del.icio.us. In between the big guys, you'll find some innovative little players there. The nice thing about RSS services like this is that it's not hard to move at least your reading list from one service to another. The user experience though, as YourMinis users no doubt are aware, is much harder to reproduce.
Update: AOL emailed the following response.
Goowy is not shutting down
yourminis, but has made a decision to close the startpage and remove
some of the functionality of the gallery. Goowy's core focus is creating
widgets and working with developers to create widgets that can live and
work on sites across the Web, including startpages such as iGoogle,
myAOL and Netvibes. By shutting down the yourminis startpage and some
of the functionality of the gallery, Goowy can continue to focus on its
core business -- developing new widgets.
I thought there might be some confusion about yourminis/Goowy shutting
down completely based on the headline of your post, and want to make
sure it's clear that it is just the startpage and gallery functionality.