Friday, June 16th, 2006

Are all AJAX homepages doomed?

Category: Editorial, Web20

<>p> In this new article, E-Consultancy asks the question “Are all Ajax homepages doomed?”

Dozens of personalised homepages have emerged over the past 18 months as developers started to programme lovely drag and drop interfaces, allowing users to customise the layout of their personal homepage. Cool technology, great use of AJAX, but is there trouble ahead?

They talk about the closing of Fold.com as just the start of “the end”, the passing of the facination with the whole “Web 2.0 desktop” idea. One reason of this decline, he states, is the lack of a business model for them, with only a few managing to garner enough interest for some funding (such as NetVibes).

He also notes that just because something is a great product doesn’t make it a great business. He suggests a move from the “just a desktop” idea to something more communal, more socially interactive to draw people in and give them something fresh to see and do each time.

Can an AJAX homepage solve a problem? Sure, but perhaps we need to see an implementation on an existing website with a solid business model. You know, Tesco, Amazon, eBay. Maybe we’ll create something for you, fine E-consultancy reader, to allow you to customise our homepage.

Posted by Chris Cornutt at 7:22 am
15 Comments

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The problem with the ajax homepages is: they’re cool, but useless.

How very nice, the weather and some widget with an rss feed on your start page, and you can even re-arrange them.

Cool, I agree, but what’s the use for the average person? and what’s the use of having 500 ‘ajax homepage’ sites that all do exactly the same?

Comment by SchizoDuckie — June 16, 2006

Agreed. When these first came out, I was all about them. I tried all the major ones, such as Google/ig, netvibes, protopage . . .

Today, I don’t use any of them anymore. I never stopped to think about why. But, when I do, I think it’s because there’s really no use for them. For me, the most important thing is a really good RSS reader. And, at best, these AJAX front pages were adequent RSS readers.

Now, I mainly use Bloglines. And, now that Flock is out in a wide release Beta. I’ve tried Flock. And, I love it.

All this AJAX home page stuff sort of reminds me of the Portal craze in the business enterprise world a few years back. And, by Portal, I’m talking about WebLogic Portal, IBM Portal, Plumtree . . . things like that. It’s all nice to have personalized front pages. But, it’s sort of a “So what now?” kind of thing.

Just my thoughts.

Comment by Fred — June 16, 2006

I use Google\ig all the time.

Comment by Sebastien Brunot — June 16, 2006

Thanks for the mention. I wrote the article as many Web 2.0 companies don’t appear to have any visible revenue streams. Who knows what the future holds, but for now these AJAX homepages can be filed under ‘cool / watch this space’, but not under ‘big bucks’.

The problem is that many Web 2.0 sites are developed because genius developers CAN develop them. Not because they should. And it is hard to know where to draw the line… is it about business, or is it about pleasure?

You’ve gotta love the technology – AJAX is supreme, from a user experience perspective. But I just wonder whether these sites will still be alive and kicking next year, or the one after.

Turns out Fold.com might be making some sort of resurrection – we’ll soon see. Let’s hope they extend compatibility to IE and grab more market share. And that it has some sort of revenue model…

Comment by Chris — June 16, 2006

Stakeholders in these sites needs to realize the problem seems to be with the business not the concept. Concept can be better put to use, if used as a tools to retrieve information which user needs. Ajax home page can definitely steam line your home page as long as retrieving content you really need. Agreed that weather and various RSS can keep individual entertained for few minutes but why go on the web and look at ads when I can do the same from my reader.

Comment by Tahir — June 16, 2006

Come on now people!! Is a knife good or bad??

Ajax is a TOOL. This is as stupid as saying “All HTML pages are bad” …

This same stupid subject came up over and over again when flash was gettign popular. “Flash is bad” What a bunch of BS. Again its just a tool. It is what the developer does with the tool that is good or bad.

Comment by Alex Duffield — June 16, 2006

I use Google\ig all the time, too.

I think there will be a market for those sorts of tools amongst the not-so-savvy crowd. Yes, RSS and feed readers are beautiful inventions, but they’ve been around for how many years now? And yet the basic web user still struggles with email — much less feed readers. Once that user level discovers ajaxified homepages, I could see them taking off.

Comment by Julie — June 16, 2006

Only usage of Ajax would be for getting the latest news (sush as Google homepage) or getting results/auto-complete/suggestions for keyword searches. You would prolly have to have a business with popular content (such as Netflix) to use Ajax with your homepage.

Comment by c0ke — June 16, 2006

I really miss fold.com because it offered the most elegant way of putting web pages in auto-updating HTML containers, a bit like sidebars, but, often, better. You can also do that with Protopage, but it looks horrid and doesn’t auto-update. This is especially handy for lengthy Yahoo portfolio listings, but it’s nice also to keep Calendar/PIM pages like Kiko and spreadsheets and word-processor web apps like those of Zoho and Writely/Google all in one place.

Comment by Flux Amm — June 16, 2006

The reason these home pages are failing is because they are home pages without a home. There really is no original content to offer. Pageflakes does not create content. It just repackages others. Same with netvibes and the rest. I think the author had the right idea, that these would be beneficial for a major content company, but one hasn’t really produced one…yet.

Stay tuned on that one. ;)

Comment by Cesp — June 16, 2006

These homepages also have a problem in that they don’t track behaviour as the user moves through the web, so can’t do anything so clever; they can only provide info users could get hold of fairly easily anyway.

The homepages that have the greatest chance of success are those where the server knows something about the user’s interests etc and can be adaptive, e.g. Google can create a much more useful homepage for people with Google toolbar installed.

Comment by Michael Mahemoff — June 16, 2006

I use Netvibes all the time. I follow up multiple feeds from technews to personal feeds from friends. I also use the to-do list, the weather widget, the box.net storage widget and webnote to write something quickly down (when e.g. I receive a phonecall). I also pulled my Google Calendar feeds into Netvibes so I never forget an appointment or a friend’s birthday. I cannot imagine a world without Netvibes. I would miss it as hell! The Netvibes page is the first I visit when I open my browser.

Comment by Bart — June 18, 2006

I wasn’t able to find an AJAX homepage that did what I needed it to do–basically just read feeds quickly and easily. I took a look at the major ones, and not a-one could do it for me. I also have major concerns about security, or lack of it, from these companies, as not one has been able to give me a satisfactory answer about how they store say, my Gmail account password.

Comment by Jason Kolb — June 19, 2006

Hey, I’m a high user of netvibes. I’ve a long experience in the web industry, and I cannot live without Netvibes (this one is cool because it is really sober).
I can find my feeds on all the different places I’m working or living…and I’d rather a netvibes rss reader than a classic rss reader installed on all my computers.
Clearly, the BM needs to be find, but Netvibes is really useful for me in my work and everyday life to monitor the web.
As Bart, netvibes is my welcome page along other ones tabbed in my browser.

Comment by MAzu — June 22, 2006

Wrong! designed correctly (for example protopage), ajax homepages can be an invaluable tool. my page http://www.protopage.com/mikeem50 contains all my fave feeds and tools (mindmapper, zoho notebook, omnidrive, twitter, gmail) one the one ajax page. a page in a page so to speak. real nice and useful.

Comment by Mike — September 30, 2007

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