By Eric Auchard
Netvibes, one of Europe's hottest Internet companies, has put the
power to create all-you-need-to-know Web portals in the hands of
individuals on Monday, challenging the decade-old strategies of online
Eighteen months ago, the Paris-based company pioneered the creation of
personalized home pages with live news feeds that update instantly
instead of the static, occasionally updated pages common on blogs,
social networks and older Web portals.
In its new incarnation, Netvibes is giving users, for free, the power
to publish their home pages as personal Web portals.
"The portal is dead. Long live the portal," Tariq Krim, Netvibes'
founder and chief executive, said in an interview.
While scores of companies allow Web users to create personalized
pages, most rotate in the orbit of one of the major Internet
players, such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, or Time Warner's AOL.
By contrast, Netvibes lets users pull in information from almost any
modern Web site -- Microsoft e-mail can sit next to Yahoo photos and
Google search on a user's home page, alongside the latest cool
features from tiny start-ups.
The company has just several dozen employees but more than 10 million
users worldwide since launching in late 2005 to give people drowning
in newly published information an easy way to track their favorite
sites on one basic home page.
Google and Microsoft have incorporated Netvibes features in their own
personalized home pages, launched subsequently.
Netvibes works more like a desktop computer application than typical
Web site, allowing people without any programming skills to add, drop
or move features around the home page.
Users of the new service, Netvibes Universe, can design a page and
publish it in minutes. Such pages can feature videos and photos, news,
e-mail, podcasts, eBay auction notifications and thousands of other
online information sources.
"Netvibes provides open access to the world of Web 2.0 content," said
Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. "Traditionally, you had to ask
each company permission to do this on any Web site. Now you can read
Gmail alongside Hotmail and Yahoo Mail."
Even inside Google and Yahoo, Li said there are supporters of the view
that the big companies can no longer afford to keep people from using
competing products. The new Web logic is that every service needs to
live side-by-side with competitors.
"With Web 2.0, no one can own the whole space. In the past you wanted
everyone to come to your site. Right now you need to figure out how to
distribute your content to the widest number of platforms," Krim said.
"We try to be the glue between all these Web services."
The new service has signed up 100 media companies, Web businesses,
non-profit groups, movie stars and celebrities to create their own
Universes -- a cosmic sounding term which simply refers to one's
personal view of the world at large.
They include music acts like Mandy Moore, Snoop Dog, Kanye West and
Korn, as well as media companies CBS, CNN, Forbes, Los Angeles Times,
Time, The Washington Post, USA Today, Les Echos, Elle France and Swiss
television station TSR.
Netvibes plans to open up Universe to all comers by June, Krim said.
Details can be found at http://www.netvibes.com/.
The difference between Universes and media companies' own sites is
that users can control what parts of these sites they see, or choose
to incorporate aspects of the sites in their own Universes. "People
can decompose their newspapers and take the pieces for themselves,"
Netvibes released the new software on Monday at the Web 2.0 Expo in
San Francisco, where several thousand are gathered this week to debate
the direction of the latest generation of Web software and services.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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