Search of the perfect personal portal

Ever since Netscape launched its “My Netscape“-portal in the 1990s, I’ve been testing with various intervals the status of the so-called “personal portals”. Must say that during the last few years, the trend has been very positive – we can really talk about personalisation, when I can really choose my own information sources from the sites that follow and create usable and readable user interface to consume the content.

In my current screening I am testing the following services:

  • Netvibes: Real web 2.0 start-up, strong personalisation features and well networked in the online domain
  • MS Live: Microsoft’s Live portal, with a lot of localised content feeds, pretty windows/MS like UI and feeling to use
  • My Google: Google’s personalised search with lot of content, yet somewhat messy, pretty neat gadgets and networking to the online community, I like also the integration to my Google usage
  • My Yahoo: Yahoo’s my section, crowded with content, layout very Yahooish = busy, currently in my opinion one of the weakest Yahoo offerings
  • Newsgator: Happened to acquire in 2004 the FeedDemon-client for my RSS-feeds, now this is integrated to the Newsgator portal. Simple and straightforward for feed handling
  • Bloglines: web 2.0 -pioneer in feeds and personal blogging, UI very techy, but efficient, somewhat still stuck to style of 2005, should renew its usablity

Practicalities:
Setting up an personal portal is nowadays very easy. Just select from pre-defined “components” and “widgets” the once you prefer and there you are … fed content updates automatically and very nicely content feeds can categorised by using Excel-like tabs/pages. Portal can be constantly refined and more and more websites and blogs include buttons that help to included the site into the personal portal – handy! Moreover, some portals can nicely accept my feed-lists as OPML-files and include them into the my sources.

Comments:
Personally I used to be in favour of the client server-model for news reading. I wanted to download the content into my laptop and then browse through it when the timing was appropriate. Also I used to like to store interesting data snippets to my pc and my networks drives. With the the modern information overload, this approach does not work any more. Only way for me to stay up-to-date on news is to have personal “dashboards” to content that I prefer to read and the modify this dashboard accordingly.
Web 2.0-kick-factor:
World of web 2.0 would not be possible without RSS-feeds. They are for the area as essential than SMSing is for the mobile telecoms and mobile messaging. To really benefit of the power of these, personal portals can be of major use. Using these will replace immediately having an opening page to e.g. to BBC, Helsingin Sanomat, YLE, Zibb, DeTelegraaf etc. Bookmarking and having media company as gatekeeper was and is sooooo web 1.0. Thus – if one want to be web 2.0, in my opinion, an excellent starting point is to start leveraging feeds integrated into the preferred personal portal.

Risks and challenges:

  • Finding the most relevant news sources to follow
  • Having the courage and stamina to develop own portal – not always a nice job to do
  • Integrating bookmarks into the personal portal – not even in 2007, all the main sites have RSS-feeds to leverage – thus it is not easy to integrate all bookmarks into the portal. Moreover, synchronising the browser to the portal is still an emerging field. I will get back to this challenge later in this blog.
  • Managing multiple logins to the multiple universes. As Martijn has written earlier in this blog – world of logins is exploding over control. It is really difficult to remember what login belongs to what service and what content was added to what portal… good ideas in helping to cope with this challenge are welcome!

Outcome:
For the time-being, my favourite personal portal is Netvibes. I prefer it because of 1) its space-efficient UI, 2) very nice catalogue of pre-defined feeds and gadgets, 3) independence of main providers (G, M & Y); 4) its solid spread over the blogsphere, Netvibes-buttons are all over the place and, finally, 5) because of the quick-read-feature for feed, no need to jump to the site our of the portal. Yet, the key question is – what it the real business model of Netvibes – who will buy it? Google or Yahoo? Or a media company? Meanwhile, I will keep on testing and enjoying :) Moreover, if you have similar experiences with the mentioned or additional personal portal, feel free to comment here below, thanks!

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One Response to Search of the perfect personal portal

  1. PerttuT says:

    One other reason to use Netvibes is that it is a european Web 2.0 service, which is quite rare at the moment.

    For early adopters the challenge in finding good feeds is probably not a challenge at all, but rather an interesting quest. The late majority on the other hand needs pre-selected (and someway maintained) feed packages. In Finland, Ampparit.com is doing pretty well, but are there others? Any ready-made-packages for world news?

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