If there’s one war we’re watching with particular interest it’s the Home Page war.
A couple of hours ago, Google announced on its Blog that it was releasing a Google Homepage API and would now support richer web apps.
Google, which already dominates as the favoured Home Page on the web, has for some time allowed users to personalise its home page with RSS feeds, a GMail preview, online bookmarks, weather and so forth.
However, this latest announcement ups the ante in what is shaping up as a fascinating war.
Google have provided a couple of sample apps to show how the system works. I’ve already loaded the Time & Date app into my desktop and I’m looking forward to seeing what independent developers come up with over the next couple of months. Certainly, it looks a fairly straight forward process of wrapping existing web apps in an XML wrapper so that they tie into the Google Homepage framework.
But Google is hardly pioneering on this front. After all, My Yahoo has offered a much richer personalised home page for a couple of years now and this latest move will only pretty much bring it up to par with the Konfabulator widgets that Yahoo acquired (and recently renamed as Yahoo Widgets).
However, we can’t see Yahoo being a player in this space primarily due to it’s advertising-driven revenue models. The secret to a great Home Page is how well you make use of screen real estate. I dumped Yahoo as my personalised home page because half the screen was filled with whopping big advertisements. Google’s Home Page motivation is to get users to keep searching with the Google Search Engine. So they don’t have to make a choice of forfeiting huge amounts of real estate or cannibalising their revenue streams.
And can someone tell me how the hell webtop start-ups like Favoor, Netvibes, etc expect to make any money? They can’t tie up screen real estate with ads, so where’s the revenue model? Surely, burning money would be more fun?
So that pretty much leaves Google to fight it out with Microsoft which recently got into the game with its Windows Live service and its implementation of the AJAX-driven, portlet-style home page is very slick. Given its big base of Hotmail users and it’s incumbency on the desktop, it’s sure to be a player. At least in the first instance, we expect most users to stick with their webmail provider as their Home Page, or webtop, of choice.
So it will be interesting to see if Google properly opens up access to GMail with an RSS feed. In doing so, it gives alternative desktops a fighting chance of at least winning eyeballs, if not making any money.
You can bet Microsoft won’t be opening up Hotmail in anyway shape or form.
Because this is an important battle. The Home Page is most users jump off point for all thing web and will increasingly be so as personalised home pages develop and become even more smart and useful.
Just incidently, it’s media companies that stand to lose the most in this war. These days, people either set their Home page to a search enginer or their favourite news site. Once they start setting home pages to personalised Google or Microsoft pages, stacked with their favourite RSS feeds, it’s going to take a lot of traffic away from your big media sites, and that includes Yahoo and MSN. Squash reckons they’re going to take an almighty hit on this front and will therefore increasingly find themselves competing on a purely content basis with the web’s squillions of news sites, blogs, etc.
This may not be the web war to end all web wars, but it’s up there, in terms of who will eventually rule the Internet.