Social networking is a really hot topic these days, particularly if you work in a field that has anything to do with the web and digital technology. From the big players like Facebook and Myspace to up and comers like Ning to the many, many niche websites, it seems that a new web 2.0 social-networking/tagging/bookmarking/insert buzzword of your choice here site or application pops up, oh, about every five minutes (if you read Techcrunch or follow Techmeme you know exactly what I mean).
There’s a new kid on the block lately, however, and that kid is Netvibes. Their slogan is “remix the web”, and that is exactly what they do. Instead of a strictly defined interface or lengthy profile that you have to fill out (isn’t everyone tired of doing that at this point anyways?), it lets users create their own personal dashboard, filled with widgets from their favorite sites – you can have local weather, breaking news, your other social network profiles, your email(s), RSS feeds, sports stats, latest bookmarks, and virtually anything else that can be widgetized. The options are as endless as the internet.
There is something fluid about Netvibes that is appealing after using all the old walled garden, data silo social networks. It combines the best elements of them all, resulting in an incredibly convenient application that makes an excellent homepage. Of course, it doesn’t purport to replace the other networks – Netvibes just wants them to build widgets and to join their party. With this website, everyone can play – even advertisers and marketers. Although the site does not run ads (and doesn’t plan to in the future), companies can build widgets, although it is up to the builders to make something that is useful and clever enough for the users to add it to their personal Netvibes. It is permission marketing at work.
What is so interesting is that the available widgets in the directory range from the expected (Yahoo sports updates, NPR, the various sections of the New York Times) to the more personal – you can add a widget for your favorite blogs, or create a personal countdown for an event that you’re looking forward to. There are also “universes” that encompass things like the latest news from your favorite musician or TV show.
Tariq Kim, the founder of Netvibes, created the site because he believes that people want less structure and more control. From this recent post by Jessi Hempel on Fortune Magazine’s blog, The Browser, “Netvibes is a personal widget market place – publishers (often advertisers) list them and you choose whether to pull them on to your page.” By the end of the year, they hope to add some social components like the ability to share your widgets with friends.
Why should you be interested in Netvibes? Besides the fact that it is just incredibly convenient to have an efficient, personally designed dashboard from which to navigate the web, if you’re a developer or entreprenuer, you might want to create widget for the site yourself. The ability to widgetize your website or application might make the difference if you’re looking for funding (or of course, entering the Knight News Challenge).
To end on a slightly humorous note, does anyone else initially think of Guinness and their version of the widget when they hear the word “widget”?