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Web-based startpages compared

The way I see it, ideal startpage should be as fast as any other desktop program or close to it, provide productive and uncluttered interface, should have easily customizable design and offer wide variety of widgets. To find out where each stands I have selected top 12 web-based startpages and compared them based on several factors(see below). Based on results I came up with following;

Best Ones: (1)Netvibes, (2)Pageflakes, (3)Yourminis and (4)Protopage
Average: (5)Google ig, (6)Webwag and (7)Live.com
Least Satisfactory: (8)Linkedfeed, (9)Escobo, (10)Itsastart, (11)My Yahoo and (12)Gritwire

Quick Note for those who feel left out: Web-based startpages(aka AJAX/Flash homepages) are nifty tools aimed at making your web life easier by putting most-needed services on one page(RSS subscriptions, ToDos, calendars, emails…). There are lots of them and they’re all free.

Table below compares and lists 12 startpages(from best to worst) based on following factors;

  • availability of basic/vital features (notepad, todo lists, RSS, calendar, email module)
  • podcast support (ability to play podcasts)
  • tabs support
  • availability of widget gallery (clock, calculator, games, weather, site-specific widgets…)
  • startpage speed (feed loading time, adding widgets, moving modules…)
  • user-friendly (how easy to use it; how to add widgets, how to edit settings, availability of inbuilt feed reader, how long does it take to figure out what does what and etc)
  • design (overall look of the startpage, screen-space usage…)
Basics:
notes/todo/RSS/calendar/email
Podcast
Support
Tabs Widgets:
clock,calculator..
Speed . User-friendly . Design
(on 1-3 scale)
Netvibes All Y Y Y 3 3 3
Pageflakes All Y Y Y 3 3 3
Yourminis All Y Y Y 3 2.5 2.5
Protopage All Y Y Y 3 2.5 2.5
Google ig All(in widgets) needs widget Y Y 3 1.5 2.5
Webwag All Y Y Y* 2.5 1.5 2.5
Live.com All(in widgets) needs widget Y Y 2 1.5 2
Linkedfeed rss, email, notes Y Y N 1.5** 2 2.5
Eskobo rss, notes N N N 2 3 2.5
It’sastart notes, rss N N N 2 1.5 2
My Yahoo notes,email(yahoo),rss N Y N 2 1 1
Gritwire notes, rss Y N N 1.5 1 2

* lets you create widget from any webpage
** extremely slow feed loading

My thoughts on Google ig, Live.com and myYahoo:

In my opinion none of the startpages released by biggies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft even slightly meet expectations of their users. They could have done much better. Google’s startpage does a good job by providing great speed and huge widget gallery, but lack of basic integration with it’s own services(ex; google reader) just kills it. For instance, there is no direct option to add feeds but through Google reader.

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When it comes to microsoft’s live.com, only positive thing about it is the search bar. Very good selection of colors.:-) Other than that it’s slow, has unclear navigation, there is no inbuilt feedreader and has relatively scarce gallery. As about my Yahoo, there isn’t much to tell, it seems as though it was developed by intern. It has one of the worst designs ever, not mentioning lack of almost everything.

  1. Peter De Vlegel
    May 2, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    You are right, it had errors, but they seem fixed now...

  2. Aibek
    April 22, 2007 at 9:27 am

    I checked it out, however it seems to have bugs. Tried to add couple of URLs but it didn't work. Any thoughts?

  3. Peter De Vlegel
    April 22, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Hi,
    I found a site which doesn't do any of the customizable stuff, nor does it show any widgets, but if you just want to have a startpage as a tool to quickly browse to another site you should check this out.
    http://go.nzal.es.

  4. Aibek
    February 26, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    @paul:
    1. [what would consitute a personal homepage?...]
    That's a very good point. I knew it may come up but was kinda hoping you would let it pass. :-). It's hard to define clear distinction between these 2 concepts and in many cases they do overlap. After I looked at webjam for the second time and spend some time on it, I realised it I was wrong about it. I actually liked it and even thinking about putting it here. It has powerful interface customization options, rich variety of modules, good speed, different privacy levels on modules and some more. Although I think it can do a better job at presenting itself. It has lots more features when compared to other startpages, hence it needs stronger navigational tips. It needs design that will guide non-experienced web-user.
    2. [how come you did not review yourmini’s sister site goowy.com ?]. Ooops, I think I might have mistakenly excluded it because of the homepage link to yourminis. I am checking on it now....
    P.S. Thanks for the tips

  5. paul
    February 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    plus webjam also allows adjusting the size and dimensions of modules, a la ProtoPage. ProtoPage is neat, but too much going on, thus making it look disorganized, especially for something that is supposed to assist with organizing

    Also, how come you did not review yourmini's sister site goowy.com ? It does have minis per se, granted not as prevelant as netvibes, pageflakes etc

  6. paul
    February 26, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    what would consitute a personal homepage? If Webjam has modules and feed management, just like netvibes etc, wouldn't it fall in the same category as those sites?

  7. Aibek
    February 26, 2007 at 11:44 am

    @paul
    just finished checking out webjam. By looking at the available modules, I think it looks more like a 'personal homepage' rather than a 'startpage'. I also find it little bit confusing, because there is no clear description stating the purpose of the website. What is it? Why I should use it? and so on

  8. paul
    February 26, 2007 at 1:28 am

    i would be curious what you thought of webjam.com I use netvibes myself (regardless of its slow load time, especially when adding modules and moving between tabs). My first thought is that Webjam seems very promising, but complicated to use and personalize/customize.

  9. Aibek
    February 24, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    @John
    when I first tried netvibes I got the same feeling however, after some what initially seemed as cluttered interface became efficient use of screen space. Give it a try.

  10. Craig
    February 24, 2007 at 11:51 am

    You get funding you get "3"
    You remain independent you get "Orerlooked"

  11. Mo
    February 24, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Netvibes copied the shit out of pageflakes, but actually it might getting better now... they are French!!!

    Vive la France

  12. John Decker
    February 24, 2007 at 12:38 am

    How can you honestly give Netvibes a "3" on "Design" and being "User-Friendly"? It has a cluttered user interface with a lot of confusing controls. Sites like yourminis and pageflakes have much better usability and are definitely more aesthetically pleasing. The Netvibes interface is so "Windows 98". I am starting to grow tired of Netvibes being put on such a high pedestal.

  13. Bill Minton
    February 23, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Adding static modules (ToDo lists, etc.) is on the ToDo list seen here - myownsite.us/history/history.txt so hopefully it won't be too long before those are implemented.

    Thanks for checking it out.

  14. Aibek
    February 23, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    @John
    if you'll have a minute drop me a line mentioning the one you'll decide to stick with.

  15. Aibek
    February 23, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    @bill
    I checked myownsite, thanks for the tip. It's more like a feedreader rather than a startpage. If there would be a module for notepad or todo lists, I would definitely add it here as well. I am planning to do similar review for web-based feedreaders I'll include it then.

  16. John Pozadzides
    February 23, 2007 at 4:18 am

    This is a fantastic article. I often bounce around between Google and Yahoo, but am never quite satisfied with either. I'll have to spend a little time trying out the different options you've tested to see if something is better.

    Thanks,

    John

  17. Bill Minton
    February 23, 2007 at 1:10 am
  18. alex bard
    February 23, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Great review...thanks for your support. One thing I wanted to add is that at yourminis we have a greater focus on not only the personalized start pages but the community around those pages.

    We give users a place to not only share and view others content but to also have conversations around that content, whether its tabs, widgets, or even the people themselves. Our goal is to create a more collaborative environment around the start pages as well as the widgets that make up the start pages.

    In addition we are launching desktop support for our widgets including Mac, Windows and Linux on the Adobe Apollo platform. You will be able to configure and grab any of the widgets that you see in our community or anywhere on the web and have it live on your desktop.

    Following that we will also have the ability for your widgets to run on mobile devices using Flash 7.

    Thanks again for your support! Any additional feedback would be great as we are always trying to improve.

  19. Ole Brandenburg
    February 22, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks for the review. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions about Pageflakes. We are always loking for user feedback to improve the service.

    Cheers
    Ole

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