Tuesday, June 07, 2005

myPortal (yawn)

Well, first it was google and now tis microsoft. Whats going on?
The so called IGoogle was received amidst a lot of criticism however i think people know that kind of work google can do and sort of cut them some slack. Its been a while now and i would expect to have some revisions pretty soon. As it is right now, it is just a horrible copy of myYahoo; and this time i think Google confused simple with bland. But i for one have hope, i have seen what Google can do with DHTML and i am actually excited to see what kind of alternative they can offer to myYahoo. I think simplicity has to still be their main goal, the major drawback for myYahoo is information overload, and way too many things going on at the same time in a small piece of real estate, although most of it is customizable, i would like to have the option of having blank spaces.
I would like to see Google provide a clean interface, along the lines of GMail or Google Maps, and provide access to their other properties, Blogger, Orkut, Picassa, Gmail, Maps, Adsense, Adwords, and more; but again, they must focus on simplicity before features.
Now, the reason im ranting about this is because i have been hearing of Microsofts start.com for a while now. Many of the regular feeds i read daily had mentioned it a way or another, I didnt pay much attention to their review since i understood it was just another portal. However, finally i came across Mark Jen's post on his Plaxoed! blog. And although there was no insight on how it worked or what was great about it I just felt that i had to see it. It probably had to do with the bug report for firefox or just the fact that im at work extremely early today, all i know is that i decided to check it out.
Now let me tell you, when i decide to check out a program, a site, a feature, 85-90% of the time I am already committed, i have already made the rational decision to sign up, register or whatever i have to do to be able to get the full experience. This is how i tried Rojo, Filangy, Plaxo itself, and others.
Why do I tell you this? Because i want you to know that i was eager to learn more about this site, i was willing to accept almost any kind of hassle. Having said this, i think MS just brought it to a new level. I had read soemthing about these questions they ask you before you use it, and i thought, it cant be that bad, its the usual registration stuff. Boy was i wrong. I think what upset me the most was that the questions were totally irrelevant, did they think i was goign to be impressed with their search engine by forcing me to use it to find these answers? WRONG. I just dont have the patience for this, and keep in mind what i said above, i was already committed to trying it!; if i was just looking around i would have been gone before their javascript finished loading.
But I digress. I answered the questions and on i went. My first thought was, 'well this looks a lot like IGoogle except a little less bland i it wasnt for the ugly gray color they chose'. Since it looked a lot like Google's portal i figured they wouldnt want to fall behind them i assumed they would allow reposition of the different groups. I put my mouse over the title bar and voila i get the 4way move cursor, so i figure i'd try it right? Well not such a good idea, the most it moved was about 2 inches and after that it killed the move feature for all the groups, it also killed the X functionality to close the groups. I was very dissappointed about this, but then i read the bottom of the page:

this site is not an officially supported site. it is an incubation experiment and doesn't represent any particular strategy or policy. for other incubation experiments, see http://sandbox.msn.com. enjoy!

I am probably reading to much into this, but it really bothered me they released this half ass product and then they wash their hands by putting a disclaimer at the bottom. At least Google puts their products in Beta but backs them up with "official" support.

In any case, just to finish this very very long post. When i clicked a link in a group it opened a popover, which was just sort of a zoom over that group, expanding that individual link. Not very impressive and actually kind of restrictive. If you ask me i rather have it the way Bloglines works. I did like the navigation on the left hand that allows you to add your own feeds and shows the default feeds chosen by MS.

Overall I think both Google and MS need a lot of work to catch up to Yahoo if thats their goal. Why is it their goal and why so late in the game? i dont know. Is it the right strategy 8 years after it was hot? I dont know. All i know is that if they want to compete they need to improve a lot.
How did you like IGoogle and/or start.com?

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