Niall Kennedy surveys the evolution over the past 20 years. “The web is changing, but it all starts with your personal home page. What is the first thing you see when you start your browser? Is it useful and tailored to you, or a collection of advertisements and meaningless promotions for portal services? The recent $15 million funding of one-year-old startup Netvibes combined with the ramp-up of Microsoft’s Live.com and iGoogle are changing the worldwide web doorway into a customized experience combining many brands and services. In this post I’ll summarize the history of pre-programmed start pages and take a look at where we might be headed in the near future.”
paidContent.org writes about a new, personalised subscriber-only service from the Wall Street Journal:
The new effort has a lot in common with the others: users can add any RSS feed, click and drag modules, drill down through a variety of site feeds. (Click on the pic on the right to see a bigger thumbnail)
But MyWSJ has its differences, particularly its scope across DJ properties. The add content list includes feeds from Barrons Online, MarketWatch, SmartMoney, and the various non-sub Journal sites an emphasis on the WSJ as part of a broader Dow Jones Online network. Its also done a better job of working in tools like stock charter and quotes, local weather and traffic, saved searches and even press releases. Its separate from the Journals first personalization service, My Online Journal, but the two are supposed to be combined eventually. It offers multiple layout choices and, shades of Excite, four different styles; in addition, each feed module an be edited for number of items shown and choice of headlines or summaries. Hovering over headlines shows the summary. Plans include allowing subs to see and share feeds.
The combination of aggregation and personalization allows users to create a mini news portal and gives the sites a shot at increased stickiness and an additional way of targeting ads.
[via Robert Scoble] Charles Fitzgerald (general manager of platform strategy at Microsoft) writes:
The browser jumpstarted mainstream Internet use and made browsing the user paradigm. You could type in a URL or follow links and it worked pretty well as long as you knew where you wanted to go or someone else had the foresight to provide a link to where you might want to go. But this approach couldnt keep up with the hypergrowth of the Web. Even if you surfed all day long, the unknown was growing exponentially faster than the known.
Enter the search engine. Instead of being limited to what you knew about or could find a link to, search engines allow you to query across millions of Web sites and billions of Web pages. Search makes vastly more of the Web accessible, but it too has limitations. Simple queries return preposterous quantities of links (as opposed to answers) while complex queries go unanswered. Personal relevance and understanding user intent are, to be charitable, in their infancy.
Both browsing and searching are about discovery, but have little to do with consumption. Discovery is work. You navigate and enter queries. Consumption is when you get something valuable. Browsing or searching by themselves are just a means; the end is consumption. The way these terms get used everyday reinforces this gap. Can I help you? No thanks, Im just browsing. Did you find what you are looking for? Nope, Im still searching.
The subscribe model allows software to act on our behalf and significantly improve consumption. RSS is obviously the first successful taste of the subscribe model (well conveniently forget the whole “Push” episode of the late 20th century). Subscribing doesnt replace browsing or searching any more than searching replaced browsing. Both will remain common activities with continued growth and innovation. Theyre probably how you will find most of the things you subscribe to.
Jonathan Boutelle writes:
Attention is a hot topic on the internets. Most of the metadata that is used in cataloging and searching the web is very labor-intensive to create.
Google made it’s first quadrillion by being the first to use the metadata inherent in hyperlinks to catalog the web. This was, of course, awesome. But the only people allowed to contribute metadata in a google-based world are web publishers.
Del.icio.us and Flickr have made it easier for people to play along at home. Instead of using links, they use tags, which require much less effort to contribute. But lets face it, the people tagging are, for the most part, the same people who are blogging.
Attention is the general idea of paying attention to what people _read_ on the web, and using that to give better search results.
Jeremy Wagstaff writes about an alternative to RSS:
They’re called widgets, or dashboards, or both, and they do more or less everything RSS feeds do, but they also do a lot of things RSS feeds don’t do, or at least don’t do as simply. Which might make them perfect for you.
One of the downsides, to me, of newsreaders is that they pretty much take up the same amount of desktop space as your browser or your email program: namely, most of it. And you need to switch from what you’re doing in Microsoft Word or Outlook, or wherever you spend most of your day, to see what’s going on in the RSS world. This is OK for folk like me who read RSS feeds like they were my daily newspaper. But what if you just want to check the sports results, any updates to your company Web site, or the weather?
This is where the widget works well. Widgets are basically little jigsaw bits of software that sit anywhere on your desktop, taking up very little space. Once you’ve installed the basic software, you select the widgets you want from the program’s homepage and you’re ready to go. Each widget is a self-contained feed, delivering its own bits of information to that corner of your screen. But what kind of information? Well, depending on what kind of widget you’ve installed, it could be anything from newly arriving emails for you to a video stream from a traffic camera on your route home. It could be any outstanding auctions you’re interested in at eBay or a shipment from FedEx you’re tracking. All of these little slices of data could appear on your screen in separate little unobtrusive windows, placed wherever you want them, updating automatically.
I think of widgets as single-item RSS feeds — where the permalink stays the same and the item gets updated in-place.