Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Google rolls out the canons in homepage war

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.


Filed under: Webtops

6 Responses

  1. Netvibes beats Google hands down. Google’s lack of OPML support is the most glaring difference, along with the lack of support for celsius in the weather. Plus it couldn’t even import Atom feeds from Blogger when I tried it.

    But yes, webtops are not a viable standalone business.

  2. Renai LeMay says:

    hi Phil,

    I’d like to say welcome to the blogosphere, but I’m not a blogger: I’m a writer who gets his work published online. Or is that the same thing? 😉

    I guess the only thing I would say here is that some of the ‘big media’ sites have started to include elements of what you’re talking about in their own sites. For example, if you head to CNET’s and click on the ‘My News’ button you can customise which news stories you get, and even get other sites’ RSS feeds through the Newsburst solution.



  3. Phil Sim says:

    No Renai, clearly u don’t understand this whole Web thing either. You’re only a blogger if you’re words can be sucked into an RSS feed, trackbacked, permalinked, techno-ratied, etc. etc. 😉

    Good point, though. It’s something I’d like to do with ITJ/MediaConnect as well when we finally go and get the whole thing redeveloped and shifted off Domino. But I think for a media site to succeed as a home page, you have to REALLY dig that site, its editorial values, presentation, and so forth. Can a broad-based media site rate that highly in it’s user’s minds?

    And while a company like CNET might go down that path because they get it, do you reckon News, Fairfax, etc would ever let you pollute their home pages with your own RSS feed? HIghly unlikely I think.

  4. Nick Momrik says:

    Two reasons I’m still using MyYahoo as a home page are Google doesn’t have a calendar yet and their bookmarks module is horrible.

  5. Phil Sim says:

    Agree on both counts Nick. I also like the way Yahoo lets you search your contacts within your personalised portal. However, surely it’s only a matter of time before Google gets its act together on the Calendar and Contacts front. I personally expect Google tie Google Base and GMail together as the foundation of new social Calendar and Contacts services.

    As for bookmarks, surely Google has to build an add bookmark module into their Toolbar, which would make that process a lot slicker.

  6. […] Update: Just saw this post: Google rolls out the canons in the home page war. […]

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