I've been recently approached by a gentleman named Chi Howe,representing Pageflakes in Asia. (Read their interview with Emily Chang here.)

Pageflakes offers one of the best UIs for walking the first-time users through the site. When the site is launched, it's asking if the uers has visited the site for the first time, and then displays bubble help in key places. Helpful, but not overdone - that's good.

Pageflakes imports widgets on the list very well. However, when I tried to import some game widgets from Labpixies, a widget service touted by Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion, into Pageflakes, it didn't work. I don't know from whose side the problem came. Besides the problem could have been only temporary.

Here in Korea we have some similar services, such as Wizard.com (screenshot below).

But here comes my 2 cents. I know blogs and start pages are totally different, but what if blogs (and possibly other services) start including the core functionalities and user values of start pages? That leads to the question, is letting the users import widgets and have their own startpage a feature, or a commercially viable service?

In the last couple of days, there has been lots of buzz around the upcoming Naver Blog 2. (Naver is the #1 portal in Korea.) As the screenshots below show, the key differentiator will be to let the users choose the components (widgets) to be included in the blog's skin, and let them move those elements around. It can then be argued that the basic philosophy and mechanism behind this "widgetization of the blog" is similar to that of web start pages.


And Naver is not the only blog service that is going in this direction - in fact, widgetization of the blog seems to be the name of the game for other blog services too.

So, back to the question: Is web start page feature or service? I've been told that IT developments fall into one of these three categories: feature, project, and product. They say you can only have a thriving company when you have a product (i.e. one with a viable business model), but too many folks set up a company with just a feature or a project. For example, folks believed (or tried to believe) that online RSS reader was a viable business, but it turned out that RSS reader was more of a feature (e.g. within the browser or Outlook) than a product or company.

Well, but we've also seen some cases where a feature or a project evolved into a multi-million dollar company. Markets don't always make sense, anyway. Both Pageflakes and Wizard.com have successfully established companies and they seem to be in good shape. Hope they will find a killer buisess model and continue thriving as "companies", not merely features or projects.