Should Netvibes/Pageflakes have been Friendfeed before Friendfeed?

I am a huge fan of start-up pages, web pages that show your customized news and information pulling in tons and tons of RSS feeds, in an easy to read, organized format. The most popular of these are iGoogle, MyYahoo, and Netvibes.

 In fact, I use Pageflakes all day, every day. I pull in the RSS feeds from my favorite news sites, and instead of going to the various news sites and blogs to see new and updated information, I go to one place to view it all. In fact, whenever I show the power of this to my less-techie friends, they are astounded by the power of this sort of tool. The reason why people don’t know about this tool is because:

  • RSS has yet to go mainstream
  • Many people still have yet to think of blogs as important learning tools, the trade journals of their space
  • It’s not easy for non-early adopters to determine the credibility of a blog and other forms of user generated content

Despite this, for early adopters, a feedreader or a start-up page is essential to traversing the internet. Unfortunately, Pageflakes was unable to develop a sustainable business model and was sold to LiveUniverse for pennies on the dollar, and Netvibes has had it’s fair share of turbulence and still have yet to find a business model, despite a solid user base.

Both Netvibes and Pageflakes were trying to solve the same problem in my mind, aggregating information resources in one central repository. They attempted to make their sites more social, but there was never really a social component to these sites in my opinon. What they didn’t see in my mind was the Friendfeeds, Profilactics, and Lifestream.FMs of the world that are using RSS in creative ways, that are much more social with comments, distribution, and forming groups. Did Netvibes/Pageflakes miss out on this opportunity? Or would this just be another feature that would have been just as hard to monetize? I don’t have the answers, but it seems that Netvibes and Pageflakes were in the drivers seat to make RSS and syndication more mainstream and may have missed out on an opportunity to grow volume in the marketplace.

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7 responses to “Should Netvibes/Pageflakes have been Friendfeed before Friendfeed?

  1. Good point. Start pages definitely have not reached their potential and have had trouble moving into the social sharing niche.

    I wonder if Pageflakes and Netvibes were mainstream enough at the time to make that move, and if they had enough of the community structure in place to pull off a FriendFeed-like structure?

    FriendFeed had a bit of a hard time taking off in the very beginning, since it was a newer concept.

  2. I think this could have potentially aided in their move to the mainstream much more than their efforts thus far to be more social. They had some of the major elements in their ecosystem: the development community, actual users, and the embedded switching costs in going to another informational gateway. Instead now, I probably could use Friendfeed to read the blogs I care about in more of a timeline format, that’s easily to digest, replacing my need for a startup page. Additionally, what Friendfeed offers is a legit community around the content, and in my Pageflakes, it’s just me.

  3. I think they could have offered it but I think it would have been diluting the message. In general, people only remember 1 thing about what a company does and I think saying “we do start pages and you can also track your friends activities” might have been too confusing. FriendFeed and twitter benefit from their razor focus which makes it ultra-easy to spread the message and concept.

  4. Justin, I definitely agree with you. I thought that they diluted their message a little bit with some other social components they launched. Especially for Pageflakes that has relatively flat growth over the past 18 months. It could have been an opportunity to differentiate itself from the Netvibes shadow by re-defining themselves in the “aggregated me” space where you can get all of your news and your activities in one place. I just feel that when growth is flat, you have to figure out other ways to draw in the mainstream audience. Right now, it seems like there was a finite amount of people that would use startpages, but a much larger market exists, instead of slugging it out with Netvibes feature for feature for the early adopters.

  5. At the end of the day, I am being a monday morning quarterback. I think the interesting takeaway from this is that initially you may not see another company as being a potential competitor in your space, and because the ability to be razor sharp with focus, you can enter someone else’s space fairly easy, and if you do have the big name status, the buzz that you could generate could replace the need for your product.

  6. I read about a site on John Chow’s blog today called http://www.43marks.com – its like Pageflakes and iGoogle but better cuz you can add all your bookmarks and the bookmarks can be websites not just gadgets and RSS feeds although you can upload your favorite RSS feeds too. Its free and totally customizable re-arranging categories and bookmarks in anyway you want. I really do like 43marks much better.

  7. Pingback: My 2009 Products I Couldn’t Live Without « These two cents

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