Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Netvibes Puts Web Surfers in Control - Letting Users Slice and Dice

As I said earlier, we’ve seen customizable web portals before. There’s even Yahoo Widgets, with literally thousands of widgets you can place on your desktop. The lack of ads is an important difference, but there are other points a good company looking for an opportunity to reach users will keep in mind.

If you want to use Netvibes as a means to reach potential customers, you need to be prepared for the idea that users are going to want to be able to use your content their way, not yours. If eBay built an auction tracker, Netvibers would balk at using it if it significantly limited the auctions available for searching. That’s doubly true if you have a Universe; while it looks like you’d still have your logo on your module, there is nothing stopping someone from copying one or a whole bunch of the modules in your Universe and putting them on their private page – possibly even alongside modules from a competitor.

It does open up a lot of possibilities. Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li notes that “Netvibes provides open access to the world of web 2.0 content. 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.”

For many companies, this may take some getting used to, but in the long run it should do a much better job of getting you the publicity you’re looking for. “With Web 2.0, no one can own the whole space,” Krim noted. “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.”

The nice thing about this approach is that it doesn’t depend so much on scoring high in Google; it depends on making yourself useful to your customers so that they’ll remember you. It may involve repackaging your content (or at least some of it) so that users can choose to interact with the parts in which they’re most interested. As Krim so charmingly puts it, “People can decompose their newspapers and take the pieces for themselves.” That may sound a little morbid, perhaps, but branching out so that your heart rate doesn’t automatically rise and fall with your position in the SERPs just might help make your rest a little more peaceful.