Personalized home page startup Pageflakes is under new management. The Benchmark-funded startup opened an office in Silicon Valley and brought on Dan Cohen, who previously led the teams working on Google IG and then My Yahoo, as CEO.
He’s made some noticeable changes already. Last month they quietly launched a video widget that pulls videos from major video sharing sites based on a keyword. I actually passed on covering it, but have since become hooked on the module and it’s become a sort of personal tv channel on my start page. This morning they will launch a new set of features designed to make creating a new home page as easy as possible.
There are two features think are worth noting in the release – personalization and a number of very cool RSS/widget features.
Like the recent My Yahoo release, Pageflakes will focus on customization as soon as you come to the site. Unlike Yahoo, they don’t have a lot of data on your prior web usage, so they will ask you a few questions to start. You pick the things you are interested in – news, sports, tech, gossip, food, games, etc. and tell it your city or zip/postal code. Pageflakes will then build you a personalized start page with pre-populated modules (they call them “flakes”). Weather, local news and local events are set to the user’s location, and can be edited or removed for different content via an Ajax interface.
RSS And Widget Features
Any module on a pageflakes page can be turned into a widget and placed on another site. Above I’ve embedded a widget for the TechCrunch RSS module, but this works for any widget.
By far the most interesting new feature, however, is the “power user” RSS reader. Pageflakes and other Ajax home page sites provide a very good view of RSS information, but only for a few sites. Too many feeds on a page and it gets too cluttered. I use Pageflakes to read a few key feeds multiple times per day, and Google Reader for reading a much longer list of feeds less frequently. With Pageflakes, you now have the best of both. Click “Reader” in the top right corner of any of your pages and you’ll be taken to a RSS reader that looks very much like Bloglines or Google Reader (sometimes called an “Outlook” view because it has two or three panes like Outlook). All feeds from all of your Pageflakes pages are included. It isn’t as feature rich as Google Reader, but it’s close. And it’s fast. Posts can be viewed with or without the original site’s CSS included.
This means Pageflakes is making a play to become THE place users keep all of their RSS feeds, not just the few that are checked constantly.
Other New Features
There are additional features as well, although they will be overshadowed by the RSS reader. Most of these are new modules that can be added to the site, including a nice mashup module of Google Maps and local event data that shows you what’s going on in your location. There are also new modules for stock prices, MySpace profiles, a Hot Or Not viewer, and horoscopes.
Pageflakes is in a very crowded space dominated by Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. They have a larger startup competitor in Netvibes as well. But statistics show that once someone starts using a personalized home page they tend to stay there. Since the vast majority of Internet users don’t use any of these products yet, there is still a race to grab users. Whatever happens, it’s good for us consumers – competition is driving innovation. I’d like to see Google combine their IG and Reader products in a similar way, for example. Perhaps we’ll see that soon.