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 giants.
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,” Krim said.
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.
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