Ajax start pages are easy-to-use, customizable webpages, allowing you to keep up with the latest news and add interactive content. You can add new RSS feeds and widgets, and move your content around the page. In some ways start pages are the successors to the portals of the 90’s. They have yet to break into the mainstream, however the promotion of iGoogle and the presence of MyYahoo are facilitating the transition. Let’s explore some of the top players – and also some you may not have been aware of.
Netvibes is one of the leaders in the space. The interface is not only clean, but also very well thought-out. Usability seemed to be a big factor when designing the experience – and it shows. In March they released their Coriander Edition – a “super personalized homepage, including a “Netvibes Reader” with multimedia capabilities and new “instant sharing” capabilities.
Pageflakes is another leading start page. I am a big fan of the initial 3 step set-up process and the high level of customization. It’s a very nice overall service. In July Pageflakes announced their latest version, code-named Blizzard. It introduces social networking functionality, themes, a slick Ajax UI, and more.
Protopage is very cool. It may not be quite as practical as the front runners, but the ‘sticky note’ type interface gets big points. Though the messaging is scattered, the drag-and-drop is wonderfully smooth.
iGoogle is probably the most simple of all the offerings. It is Google’s first big kick at AJAX start pages. The offering is extremely basic and lacks any clutter. See a full review here: iGoogle: The Epitome of Google Personalization
MyYahoo is clearly tailored for the average Internet user. Messaging and instructions are clear and concise. Having said that, the interface is rather bland and functionality is limited. However, this is soon to change – as in March Yahoo announced a new beta My Yahoo with web 2.0 features. The beta My Yahoo has a fresh new design and some neat interactive features (using ajax of course!). It also aims to make personalization simpler.
Inbox is a portal with an AJAX start page wrapper. As is the case with Yahoo, this offering will most likely appeal to regular folks, as it is easy-to-use. Advanced users may skip over it, as it lacks in the functionality department.
Eskobo ressembles a Netvibes clone, but there are slight differences. The service provdes a nice, clean page, but does not include anything revolutionary or particulary interesting.
ItsAStart is a generic, two-column AJAX start page. There is nothing overly flashy or extraordinary about the service. In fact, I found that it offered the least attractive interface.
Favoor is a beautifully designed start page, but it lacks in two key areas. Firstly, there is a mandatory registration process. Secondly, there is no default content once you finally access the page. Once these two obstacles can be eliminated, I think the site may have a chance at competing with the big boys.
24eyes immediately engages the reader with a page full of news content. However, this can be somewhat daunting, as my eyes got lost! Perhaps I need 24 eyes to truly enjoy the experience to the utmost extent.
The need for a start page is undeniable. The ability to personalize and customize your own space saves time and hassle. A drag-and-drop interface is extremely easy and intuitive for newcomers to the feed aggregation concept. Adoption is simply dependent upon further education. One key question still remains however – where is the revenue model? Though these mini-portals are able to attract millions of users, monetization is needed for long term survival.
There are many other AJAX start pages available on the net. We have only chosen to list 10 of them and we’re not claiming this to be a ‘top ten’ list. Please feel free to add others in the comment section below. Also, let us know which is your favorite.