- WEB STARTUPS
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Start page provider Netvibes launched their latest version, Ginger, into private beta last December. Today they take the wrapper off and have opened it up to the public. They are creating what I am calling a "social start page" by not just letting you determine what’s on your start page but your friends can influence the page as well.
Will Netvibes move into widget advertising as a network provider? I could see this type of ad play by Netvibes taking a step past other start pages including Pageflakes, iGoogle, MyYahoo and MyAOL.
Netvibes boasts 120,000 widgets including: Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Slide. Here is an example "universe" which is basically a page that you create and open to the public.
After last year’s acquisition post, I thought it would be interesting to look at 5 great acquisition targets for 1st quarter 2008. I do not have financials for any of these companies, so I am working from a base of technology and visibility. For each company I list, I have also listed a possible buyer along with my commentary on why the purchase makes sense. Do you agree or disagree?
Why: Yahoo needs to expand its base of distribution for the Yahoo ad platform. What better way than to acquire the population segment who uses AOL and loves it? AOL users click ads which means a potential cash win for Yahoo sa they could integrate contextually-relevant advertising into AOL, something AOL doesn’t do currently. It would also give them access into Hulu thru the AOL Video portal. It might even perk up the employee morale which I read has been quite low this past year.
Why: A couple times each week I read about IBM wanting to own the services market. Acquiring Zoho would give IBM a foothold into Web 2.0 and since Zoho targets the small business, would give IBM a chance to sell the small business on even more IBM-based services. It could even help IBM to slowly become a household name again in the Web space, something that they have no real presence in today.
Why: Webtrends is so completely out of the Web game, it’s sad. I remember beta testing the first version of Webtrends in the mid-90s and watched the company never move forward. Clicky is hot, both from the application-side and the buzz-side, and could be a good fit for Webtrends. Most small businesses need simple Web analytics and while Clicky is more robust than just simple, it would give a slow entry into the current Web market for Webtrends. That is of course if they actually want to move forward, something I’ve wondered for eight years now.
Why: To help Omniture move further into the Web testing market and provide a rounded suite of tools for their clients. Last year I said that CrazyEgg should be acquired by a large creative agency but I’ve changed my mind and am going with Omniture. CrazyEgg and ClickTale provide the testing and Omniture provides the analytics – I could see some nice A/B type testing with these acquisitions.
Why: Both Pageflakes and Netvibes have good footings into the early adopter, “cool techie” segments. This is a segment which Yahoo lacks on but could be a very influential segment for buzz. Completed correctly, Yahoo could (once again) start to get their search and other products in front of the early adopter, blogger crowd which can be an excellent way for Yahoo to get messages out and have forced use of their technology.
Note: Zoho is a current sponsor of CN.
Netvibes has launched a new start page opportunity for corporations and Web sites to embed Netvibes start page functionality directly into their own Web site. Called Netvibes Universe, basically any of the widgets available on Netvibes are available on these corporate start pages.
“We’re pleased to unveil Netvibes Premium Universe, which was built to meet the demand by media publishers to add the personalization power of Netvibes within their website. Premium Universes bridge the divide between traditional websites and widget-based personalized pages, allowing companies to tailor their brand offering within their own website for each individual user,” said Tariq Krim, CEO and founder of Netvibes. “This is an exciting new product and revenue line for us that paves the way for the rapidly emerging widget economy.”
Marshall wonders if this will be able to gain any traction as the first published customers include what he calls "a spammer and the company that makes those despicable double-underline link ads". Initial customers include Miva, Tagged.com, and two French newspapers.
The truth is that this could be very powerful for corporations who are trying to engage their customers. For some brands, Netvibes Universe can dramatically increase the time a customer spends on site. The other thing this does allow a corporation the ability to create widgets that plug into a startpage framework without having to develop their own.
Also I wonder, could this become a basic Intranet replacement? If you are running a small company, this might be a quick way to get an Intranet up and running. I have to imagine the costs are lower than what goes into creating an internal Intranet.
Costs to setup a Netvibes Universe are not disclosed in the official press release. While Mashall is leaning towards this not working, with the right marketing I think it could be a semi-big win for Netvibes.
Ben Metcalfe sent over a link last week to his latest project called Bubbletop. Bubbletop is a start page from France Telecom/Orange and is similar to Pageflakes, Netvibes, yourminis and Schmedley. My first reaction after using this for a while was, "oh another start page, eh?" But what I have come to learn is that each startpage has it's own flavor and will appeal to a different type of user.
Bubbletop uses a friends system to share the content you find/use on Bubbletop. This is what makes Bubbletop unique. You can "friend" people on Bubbletop and then click the share button and after selecting your friends, they will get a notification of new content from you. What this means is that your friends must be using Bubbletop as well. Pretty groovy and innovative.
Another feature I like about Bubbletop is the ability to bring in my own widgets from other providers. In fact, I could take a widget from yourminis and bring it into Bubbletop. Ben notes, "you can bring widgets from other providers into Bubbletop – no need to build them twice!"
The Bubbletop Foundry is opening soon and will allow developers to collaborate on extending Bubbletop and creating new and interesting content for the start page.
On the business side, Mike notes, "This is an overly-crowded space (and now Google is now promoting their iGoogle product hard as well). But Orange has nearly 90 million mobile customers to try to push to their new online products."
Else, Bubbletop is another start page. I think the social features make it more interesting than 80% of the other start pages out there, but to make this feature really work, my friends need to use the app as well. I would suggest that Ben take a look at Schmedley for some design inspiration as Bubbletop looks more like a developer designed it than a designer.
I reviewed Schmedley back in March and thought it was pretty rad. Even though the application is in Alpha (I think that comes before a Beta) it is very smooth and the "schmidgets" flow so well. The start page space is hot as each of the major players jockey for position. To find out more about Schmedley, I spoke with Dustin Caruso, Schmedley co-founder.
Allen: Can you provide a brief background about yourself?
Dustin: There are 2 founders to schmedley – Dustin Caruso (myself) and Rob Wolf.
I worked for past 7 years or so being a web designer/developer and project manager for various projects at corporate clients such as The Vanguard Group, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon, Certainteed, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, etc. For the past 5 years I have also been involved w/ Rob's company (launchdm.com) developing websites and web applications, and schmedley, in its previous and current form has been going on for about 4 years now – so I've had to maintain several "day jobs" while continuing to pursue my dream of building schmedley.
Rob graduated from CU Boulder (CO), worked during the dot-boom in San Francisco and then started a web design/development firm with his partner Charlie. A few years later Rob moved back to the East Coast (2002) and we started doing some web projects together and a year later I came to him with the idea for what ultimately became schmedley.
Launch Dynamic Media is thriving as a web & print design and development firm here in Reading, PA and has experienced over 100% increase in business yearly since its inception.
Allen: What is Schmedley?
Dustin: schmedley combines the convenience of "widgets" on a customizable "homepage" that act as a "front door" to a suite of more complex, feature-rich web services applications.
Allen: Where did the name come from?
Dustin: It was a cartoon character from when we were kids, it was the name of our friend's dog when Rob and I both lived in Colorado, and it was the name of my band a few years back. We can't escape the name. It also represents a spin on it being a medley of applications and the "schm" in the beginning is a common play on words to downplay something – remember Daffy Duck saying "consequences, schmonsequences", or in this case, "startpage, schmartpage".
Allen: How does the service work?
Allen: How long did it take to create those awesome looking schmidgets?
Dustin: Each one is different, some just take a few days (calendar) and other take weeks (Gmail). Most of the channels, which are full-blown mash-ups take around a month on average until everything is just right. There's also a lot of behind-the scenes architecture that has gotten developed along the way. Most of what you currently see in schmedley (the 10 channels and 9 schmidgets) have taken a year to develop by a handful of us working mostly part-time at it.
Allen: What's the team like at Schmedley?
Allen: What's the feedback like since your Alpha launch?
Dustin: Incredible. I'd say it's been about 98% positive. The other 2% are people that are either too quick to judge without acknowledging the "alpha" branding or they hate the name. :-)
Allen: Who are your competitors?
Dustin: Netvibes, Pageflakes, iGoogle, MyYahoo, Your Minis, etc. Also MySpace (after we release some new top-secret features later this year). We're most often compared to Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle – mainly because most reviewers can't seem to get past the homepage to explore what else schmedley has to offer. There's plenty of room for all of us on the internet, and I think each service will continue to offer something that is uniquely cool and different.
Allen: How do you compare Schmedley to Netvibes and Pageflakes?
Dustin: You have to very careful when answering a question like this :-) – One major difference is that we're the only startpage with a set of full-page web applications "under the hood".
Netvibes & Pageflakes are both great products with more tools/widgets that schmedley currently offers. In fact there are many other Web 2.0 startpages with tons of cool functionality. The problem is, most of those products are aimed heavily at a tech-savvy audience. We wanted to create a startpage for EVERYONE. We wanted an intuitive interface that was more aesthetically pleasing, had less controls to fiddle with, and had more functionality to offer than just a startpage full of text-based widgets. We have taken great care in designing a user interface that is beautiful and graphically rich without being too "heavy" on page loads. We have approached the schmedley interface and usability on a whole as designers – not developers, and we have found that users and critics have responded positively to that.
Allen: Do you have a monetization plan? If so, can you share some details?
Dustin: Well, it's obvious that there will be some advertising areas. We built those in from the beginning so users wouldn't be surprised by us adding them later. We also are planning some strategic partnerships and opportunities for product/brand placement. Later on we may move into membership fees based on a shareware type of model – offering enhanced functionality to users for a nominal fee.
Allen: What's coming in the next 3-6 months for Schmedley? Any plans to expand internationally?
Dustin: We have many more schmidgets and channels in the pipeline – we've written about a lot of those on our blog and in our newsletter to registered users. We also are developing a special tabbed interface and a set of schmidgets dedicated to further personalization by the user. Its all very exciting stuff that I can't get into great detail on now. But I can tell you that it is a very different approach to this feature than Netvibes or Pageflakes have taken.
We will also be adding international support for the tools we have that warrant it – Weather, SMS, etc. in the near future. Complete localization of schmedley to different languages is something that will take a little bit longer, unfortunately.
Allen: Where do you see start pages going in 2007?
Dustin: I think this space is really just starting to heat up. Both Google and Yahoo have recently plunged much deeper into the game and Netvibes and Pageflakes have both made some major additions to their offerings in recent months. It will definitely be fun watching how each of these products evolve and it will be interesting to see how each one will differentiate itself.
Allen: Why should a person use a start page?
Dustin: Because its an easy way to organize things on the web that you reference frequently. A good startpage should increase your daily productivity too.
Allen: What's been your biggest lesson learned since you started Schmedley?
Dustin: Never underestimate simplicity. For instance – we would be busy building a very complex tool and then we would read the results of our user survey to find that the 2 most wanted items were a clock and a calendar. Another example – on any given schmidget or channel we concentrate on building the 5 features that 98% of our users would need and/or use and drop the 1 or 2 extra features that only appeal to the other 2%.
Allen: Which RSS feeds are you reading these days?
Dustin: TechCrunch, Compiler (formerly Monkey Bites), Wired, SlashDot, O'Grady's PowerPage, The Apple Core, Apple Insider, Go2Web2, and of course, CenterNetworks.