Saturday, November 05, 2005

Rating the Personal Portals

I've been thinking about changing my home page, and it's traumatic.
For at least five years, My Yahoo! has been home to me, and served reasonably well.

But this Web 2.0 stuff is starting to grow on me, and there are three strong candidates for best DIY portal:

So what's wrong with good ol' My Yahoo!? It's gotten better. You're free to add RSS feeds, pages, it has lots and lots of content providers for things such as Weather, TV, Movies, more news feeds than you can shake a stick at... it's just old fashioned. It doesn't have that nifty flavor-of-the-day drag and drop stuff the new guys have. It's UI takes page after page of clicks to make a change. So time to look at the others:

Microsoft Live is the one to beat, so far as I can tell, and for one big reason: Gadgets. Microsoft has defined a simple way to place these gadgets on-screen, with minimal JavaScript, CSS and an XML wrapper. I'm trying to think of what I'd like it to show next, so I can start hacking one. They also are the only one that handles the back button nicely after popping up a feed. However, their feed-read screen doesn't show the history of a feed, you can't easily mark a whole feed as read, and you can't read more than one story. It's also very fond of finding ways to take you to the page rather than just opening a story.

Google's Personal Home Page has good news feeds, movies, but is very thin on gadget-y things. There's no way to collapse a feed, that I've seen, and it just looks like a quick hack to match the other guys. No OPML, no pop-up stories. Give them a few weeks, and it could be powerful.

Netvibes is sweet. Lots of nice UI, and a very responsive author, who I wish would just open up the source a bit, or at least a MS-Gadgets-like API. It doesn't have news feeds built in, so I may have to go find some. Collapseable feeds, a few nice gadgets (Writely, Google Mail) and the nicest search pane: includes Wikipedia among others. Control of the back button would be the #1 thing I'd add, and maybe multiple screens or panels of feeds. UI is very friendly, with lots of controls over refresh, collapse, etc. Its feed directory has more than Google and MS, although you quickly start adding your own.

Summary: Try out Netvibes. Hmm. It seems to be unresponsive right this minute, but I still love it.

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