For years I've built my own start pages, which originally start out simply as an HTML page full of my favorite links but eventually becomes festooned with with whatever knick-knacks I find. I used the Accuweather widget, the Symantec Virus Alert widget, the Last.fm song widget, customized Gigablast search forms, FeedDigest RSS widgets, and yes, even a TagCloud.com tagcloud. I put a lot of time and effort into these creations and putter over them incessantly, moving things around, removing things that I don't use, adding new things I've found, changing colors, adding graphics. Truly a labor of love, or, more likely, the result of a horribly short attention span.
The other day I followed up on a note to myself to check out a site called protopage.com. Protopage is, basically, a startpage creator. You register on the site and then are presented with a screen full of components that you can add, remove, edit, move around, and, yes, putter over. For instance, you can add newsfeeds, widgets like weather forecasters, link favorites, or Inbox monitors and you have some control over how much of each component looks and acts. It saves your page layout on the fly and if you leave and come back it looks just like you left it. Thanks to AJAX, this stuff is all pretty slick and responsive. I created my own protopage and was very happy with it. I had about 12 newsfeeds, a bunch of link favorites, a weather widget and an Inbox monitor for one of my POP accounts. And it looked great.
So, in a small ceremony I officially dumped my previous, homemade html page for my slick new protopage (of course Microsoft Antispyware fought me tooth and nail for trying to change IE's startpage, but more on that another time). So everything, it seemed was hunky-dory. Then I noticed a blurb about something called "Pageflakes" in a Digg.com posting. Apparently Pageflakes was similar to Protopage. So I checked it out. Turns out Pageflakes is pretty cool too. I built a startpage with Pageflakes and saw that it actually seems to have even more widgets than Protopage, including tagclouds from del.icio.us, TV Guides, an SMS sender, even something called a U.S. Debt clock. Well now, maybe I should take a hard look at this.
My next entry will be a review of the startpages out there, including Protopage, Pageflakes, Eskobo, Goowy, and NetVibes.