The so-called “AJAX Start Pages” are not a new concept anymore, and like for almost any other offspring of Web 2.0 there is more than one to chose from. Hence the increasing number of comparative reviews on the Web nowadays (Yes, I’m guilty of that too). I soon learnt that for any “good and useful thing” on the web there are at least n clones: consider for example social bookmarking, community-powered news sites, php frameworks…
And no, you can’t use the word clone because it has a strong negative connotation nowadays so let’s just say that whenever someone comes up with a new idea, others examine it, process it and in a few weeks (days?) some very, very similar application comes out, and it’s better than the previous one.
Now, I don’t know exactly whether NetVibes was one of the first AJAX Start Pages created or not, but at any rate – in my very, very, very humble opinion, is the most advanced and the most usable of the lot, and an essential tool for lazy folks like me who want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on without having to visit dozen of websites everyday.
I can see people jumping up and down shouting “Pageflakes is better”, “Protopage kicks a$$” etc. etc. Well, yes, probably, as you like: different people like different things, and when it comes to AJAX Start Pages there’s really a lot to choose from: 3spots has an excellent (and complete, I believe) list of all the start pages currently available on the Net, so yes, you can try them out yourself and make out your mind :)
I made up my mind long ago after experimenting a few of those. Why Netvibes? OK, let’s see:
- Fast to load: Netvibes is fast. Relatively fast, of course, for sure is not as fast as a plain, old-style html page, but I think it’s perhaps one of the fastest AJAX start pages ever created. As they pointed out, with a 15 million investment performance can only get better…
- Tabbed pages: After tabbed browsing, tabs within a single page seem to gain popularity. Netvibes allows you to create more than one page to prevent cluttering and general chaos: you can create a tab for CakePHP feeds, one for some cute AJAX widgets you’ll never use, another for al that Web 2.0 rubbish you’ll never read — that’s what I do at least.
- Smart Google Module: Finally Netvibes has a proper Google search module, which enable users to search with Google and view results on Netvibes instead of opening up a browser tab.
- RSS done right: Their RSS reader is nice: by clicking on a feed title it opens up a virtual window inside the page with the whole story and a menu with links to the other stories included in the feed. This is the most convenient way to read whole articles like TechCrunch’s ones without leaving the page (and without loading the heavy TechCrunch UI).
- Public API for modules: For those who – unlike me – has some proper free time and would like to develop their own module, the Netvibes Mini Module API is public…
- Ecosystem : Netvibes Ecosystem includes hundreds of modules and podcasts and thousands of feeds and tabs which can be integrated into any Netvibes page with a single click. Some of my favourites: XE Currency Converter, Quick Translator, Google Map Daily Cartoons and Bitty Browser.
CakePHP feeds? Loads!