Switching my default browser home page, again

I’ve probably changed my browser’s default home page about 10 times in the last year. Something about working here at Yahoo! has made me very picky about start pages.

The new Yahoo! home pageI most recently was using Netvibes which had a couple of really cool modules: a notes box that you could write in just by clicking in it and a sudoku puzzle that I would play on the train ride home. Unfortunately, Netvibes became way too slow for me. I found myself typing in a new URL before Netvibes came up every time I launched a browser window or clicked ‘home’.

I don’t think Netvibes is alone in learning the hard lesson of scaling personalization features. It’s clear that NewsAlloy is struggling under the weight of their usage, and Rojo recently rescued their ailing infrastructure, at least we hope, by adopting a new parent in MovableType.

Even more dramatic is the performance on Wizag. Wizag is one of the most promising start pages I’ve seen yet with its learning and categorization concepts. The design is awful and the speed is unusable, but those problems are easier to solve than developing really new and interesting algorithms. I’m hoping they figure these things out, because I would love to use it more.

Not too long ago I tried switching to Google’s Personalized page. I loved the integration with my phone. You can select modules from your personalized start page that will appear on the phone version. It’s really smart. And it made me try using Google Reader more. But Google Reader is just not the way I want to work with my feed sources, and I got too annoyed.

Why not use My Yahoo! as your browser home page, you ask? I use My Yahoo!, actually. At least weekly. But it shares a problem I have with all personalized start pages…I want my browser to open with something that I don’t know. I want it to lead me, sometimes just a little bit.

And I just learned when I switched to the new Yahoo! home page that I want big pictures, too.

The new Yahoo! home page is brilliant. It has everything I actually want just prior to starting a journey somewhere or even when I’m not sure where to start. I can see the most recent email messages without having to open the full email app. I can check out traffic in my neighborhood, send a quick IM, search and get to my feeds (on My Yahoo!) all from the same place with minimal effort.

But what I love most is that the Yahoo! home page shows me stuff that I don’t know. The top stories have huge impact. They’re inviting, and they make me want to click. And the pulse box always catches my attention with the Top 10 this and Top 10 that.

One of the proven rules in magazine cover selling at the newsstand is that people love top 10 lists. It’s true online, too.

We also learned at InfoWorld how powerful imagery can be when we studied people’s eye movements on a more image-driven home page. The results of that study are here.

No doubt, I’ll switch home pages again soon. I haven’t stuck with one page for more than a few months, but I also don’t remember being as pleased as I am with this page. The dust has settled from the launch earlier in the summer, and I have to agree with what most people in the industry said: The new Yahoo! home page rocks.

7 thoughts on “Switching my default browser home page, again”

  1. Findory is still plenty fast, Matt. I take it that Findory does not meet your needs? Why not? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

    If the issue is that you want more control (more customization than personalization), have you tried Findory Favorites (http://findory.com/s/)? It allows you to use Findory like a feed reader and also generates recommendations to help you discover new things.

    Thanks, Matt.

  2. My apologies for not also addressing Findory. It only slipped my mind because I was thinking of home pages that were either new and different or old and broken. Findory is proving to be a solid solution for discovering interesting news for me. I’m a fan.

    However, a home page can be about so much more than news. Yahoo!, My Yahoo!, Google Personalized page, Netvibes, etc. all have some handy modules including quick access to email, weather, stocks, etc. These things are great to have at your finger tips each time you open a new browser window.

    Are you going to add “widgets” to Findory, Greg?

  3. Matt,
    Thanks for the encouraging words and for pointing out our deficiencies. I am glad that you see the usefulness of what we are doing beyond its awful design. I think that so far we have the best topic discovery (not tags or words that do not mean much), personalization and learning.

    We are doing an overhaul of the database architecture to solve the slow response problem. It is not a scalability problem for us yet. It is simply bad database design. We focused so much on the core algorithms and neglected the database design. It does things like placing locks on whole tables, creating huge temp tables etc. This is still work in progress. When these things are fixed, the speed should be a lot better.

    We are in the process of a new graphic design. We have uploaded part of the new design to the site. I would appreciate it if you could take a look and tell me whether it is bearable this time.

  4. Thanks, Matt. And thanks for the suggestion. Widgets on Findory is an interesting idea.

    So far, we’ve been taking the opposite tack of making Findory content available for inclusion on other pages. So, you can put an excerpt of your personalized Findory page on your weblog or any other web page using Findory Inline. Using Findory’s RSS feeds, you can put your Findory news recommendations on Live.com, My Google, My Yahoo, or any of the other configurable home pages that can display RSS feeds in a widget.

    It is a good idea to think about allowing other people’s widgets to be displayed on Findory. That might make Findory.com more attractive as a home page.

    Thanks again, Matt.

  5. You might also be interested in a brand new start page available called Funky Homepage (http://www.FunkyHomepage.com). It’s comprised mainly of Google gadgets (as well as Gadgets from other sources), live news feeds (with your choice of news provider), daily Bushisms, daily jokes, horoscopes, videos, weather (up to 5 locations), interactive calendar, Google calendar viewer (for up to 5 Google calendars), comic strips and lots more besides. It also lets you choose your own search engine, colour scheme, etc.

    Unlike many of the other personalised start pages available, there’s no need to create an account and it’s all already set up for you, with the most popular gadgets organised by category and sub-category. So there’s virtually no setting-up work required by the user, making it ideal for the mainstream audience and those (like me) who can’t be bothered to do all the work of setting up their own page. More adventurous (and less lazy) users can choose to add their own Google gadgets and RSS feeds, but most people just use the gadgets and tools provided.

    Unlike Netvibes, PageFlakes and all the other AJAX powered home pages, Funky Homepage does not use a drag and drop interface. Instead it allows you to select from a drop-down list of the most “popular” gadgets and feeds – “popular” according to the Google gadgets most popular list, that is. As such, it’s not really intended to compete with the flexibility of Netvibes and PageFlakes, but instead is intended to address a gap in the market for those who want something a bit more funky than Google or Yahoo, but without all the setting up required of Netvibes and Pageflakes. So only the most popular gadgets are offered. Although it still maintains a large degree of flexibility for the more adventurous users, allowing them to enter their own feeds and gadgets, should they wish. Whether you like it or hate it, at least it offers an alternative from the plethora of AJAX-powered homepages that are now available.

    It’s free to use and you can check it out at http://www.funkyhomepage.com

  6. Matt, I see you work at Yahoo and you have naturally praised the new Yahoo Home Page. It’s only natural you should say that, but bear with me: I just hate it, and I WISH someone would listen to me. I’m 50 and have been using a computer daily since the 1980s, so someone of my age has witnessed a lot – one of which is eyesight and readability factors as one ages. It’s not just about being able to SEE, it’s about the speed and method with which your mind can take in visual information – it changes a lot as the years go by.

    The new Yahoo is unreadable to me.

    – There is no background color or pattern or theme that suits me. I need a dull, nonglaring medium level color – like light mud or icky beige. Not nearly so much contrast between the background the background of the modules.

    -I want to make each module different so they stand out from each other. Different colors, different typefaces (and different colored and SIZED typefaces) etc. Having them all identical, with that horrible typeface, makes it completely (I really mean completely) unworkable for me.

    -Thank you for the ideas about new homepages. I just with the design team at Yahoo had listened to the many of us who made these and similar suggestions. I honestly don’t see any difference between the first beta rollout and the final version.

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