Startpages (ala Netvibes) – why they matter so much

14 Feb

Every day, I get more and more scared of Google. Not in the sense that they are going to suddenly remove me from their rankings, but by how much they shape the internet experience.

A lot of people still think the Internet Explorer ‘e’ icon is the internet. A wizened reader (like you) knows that is absolutely ridiculous. But scoffing at behavior exhibited by millions is a foolhardy exercise (just ask all the domainers making millions because a ton of people insist on writing out domains).

Using the Internet Explorer example, to many the internet is Google. While IE ‘starts’ the web, Google ‘is’ the web. The entire internet experience consists of going to familiar sites (ala,, etc). For many the place where their actual internet experience starts is Google. Very strong brands like CNN and ESPN can stand on their own – others must be found through the internet.

So it is with that thought that start pages have the power to be so painful. Any time someone becomes an active user of a website, they essentially invest (their time) into that site. The more a person uses that site, the less likely they are to leave. One can argue that there are superior alternatives for social bookmarking, but the undisputed king is Delicious. Sure exporting bookmarks is easy, but who wants to go through that burden?

So going back to start pages – when a person starts using a startpage (such as NetVibes), and customizes it, and becomes more comfortable with what it does (and doesn’t do), the inertia created is massive. I could pull a superior homepage (faster loading, easier on the eyes, new features super easy to switch), but the amount of people switching over would be minimal. This trend of course applies to anything software – I still use WS_FTP95 for my FTP needs. It bases everything off of C:\ (the ‘root’ is not the desktop), but hell – it works for me, and I cannot be bothered with the newer FTP programs.

So the ‘winner’ of the startpage race will have a lot of weight to throw around. Lets say tomorrow the race is over, and NetVibes is the winner, with 50 million users. These are users that have set NetVibes as their homepage. 50 million people whose daily ‘introduction’ to the web is this one website. Instead of seeing ESPN, they see Yahoo! Sports. Instead of seeing weather by AccuWeather, they see weather by Just imagine if Yahoo! was the default search instead of Google – the revenue from the resulting searches would be a damn lot. Enough to pay NetVibes to make it worthwhile. After all, blind tests show Google, Yahoo!, and MSN have relatively equal searches – most people wouldn’t even care much.

But (and you know this was coming) … every single startpage sucks. NetVibes, Page Flakes, Protopage, Google’s, Yahoo’s – they all are complete crap. I’ll explain why … tomorrow :)

4 Responses to Startpages (ala Netvibes) – why they matter so much


Mike Bogo

February 15th, 2007 at 2:03 pm

And the anticipation builds…



February 17th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Hmm. Kind of like AOL … 2.0! Heheh. I sure remember the time when ISPs (and BBSes, of course) insisted to have their own portals as your own “start page.” So now it’s still going to be a start page, but with your own customizable content.

Personally, I still prefer to launch all my browser sessions (whether FF, IE or Safari) with a blank page.


Why startpages suck .. - Tech Soapbox

February 17th, 2007 at 3:36 pm

[...] Continuing from my earlier discussion on why startpages are so important. [...]


mark meeus

June 20th, 2007 at 3:32 pm

I had about:blank for years, but now I’ve created my own startpage. It loads super fast and takes me to wherever I want with only 4 keystrokes.
Too bad it doesn’t attract traffic.
You can check it out if you want.