2-3 years ago, so-called "startpages" were all the rage - online dashboards where users could store links and quickly scan important news feeds. Startpages were also an evolving platform for "widgets," mini web apps inside of a web page. The big Internet companies had startpages: iGoogle, My Yahoo!, Microsoft's Live.com. Among the startups, Netvibes managed to establish a foothold. Other startup battlers included PageFlakes and Protopage.

In 2007-08 startpages were viewed as the second coming of portals and some even thought they might be the next social networks. Now of course many people use Facebook or Twitter as their place to "start" on the Web. So what will become of the startpage - does it have a future? Let us know in our poll whether you still use a startpage product. We have some initial survey results and further analysis below.

What's Become of Startpages?

Startpages have undoubtedly faded in recent years, despite my positive outlook for them 4 years ago (although I also correctly predicted that the enterprise market would provide revenue opportunities). The main reason for the decline of startpages in the consumer market is Facebook.

The main selling point of startpage was always the widgets, the mini web applications that users could add to their dashboards. Over the past couple of years, Facebook has become far and away the largest platform for mini web apps. Nearly every major web product these days has a Facebook Application version. A startpage widget is now often a second thought, if considered at all, for online businesses.

Netvibes is probably the most well-known startpage, outside of the big companies. As early as March last year, we were suggesting that Netvibes was struggling. This was vigorously denied at the time by Netvibes CEO Freddy Mini. He told ReadWriteWeb that while the startpage paradigm hasn't taken off beyond the early adopter set, it remains useful as a driver for sales of the company's new enterprise and "branded portal" offerings.

Netvibes still appears to be beavering away at the consumer market. For example, last month it launched an iPad-Friendly custom RSS Reader and other mobile products.

ReadWriteWeb Community on Startpages

We asked our community via Twitter: do you still use a startpage? Here's a representative sample of the replies (you can see them all via Twitoaster):

@shilpandya: "I have so much great content feeding to my iGoogle pg.Wish I checked it more often.Always so many browser windows already open though."

@CTdigital: "Spent ages playing with my iGoogle, however since chrome, just have my favorites pinned to browser on open and then search from url bar"

@RCMBartley: "Tried Netvibes and iGoogle. Start pages have never been able to keep my attention. Prefer Safari's opening page of 12 fav sites. Useful"

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@Devindra: "Used Netvibes for years, but now I just stick with the Chrome startup screen"

@grandison: "Twitter = start page killer. Curated crowd sourced data eliminated the need for blocks of feeds. I would not have called it 2 years ago"

@tobiaspeggs: "igoogle is my window on the world, my realtime dashboard of everything I need to keep an eye on. Don't know what I'd do without it."

@zzramesses: "I def still use netvibes to start my day. I can get a quick overview of the day's happenings"

@andrewserff: "yes, I still use Netvibes although less than I used to because of twitter. But I like the pictures and interesting post pop out faster"

@donlbe: "i use iGoogle. it's about efficient agg of social nets, data (finance, weather, etc.) and feeds..."

@aldozenzo: "Only on mobile. On desktop, no. On mobile, it's usually "consume" mode, and on desktop, "work" mode."

It seems that many of our readers now use Google's Chrome browser, Twitter and Google search as a replacement for startpages. However, there was still solid support for Netvibes and iGoogle in particular. A few people mentioned Yahoo! too.

Participate in the poll to have your say - and let us know in the comments your thoughts on the startpage market.