Summary:

It is a believer’s game, this 2.0 world. It could either become big like wildfire, or fizzle out like a Coke Blak. Netvibes is one such serv…

It is a believer’s game, this 2.0 world. It could either become big like wildfire, or fizzle out like a Coke Blak. Netvibes is one such service…stripped down to its most basic, it is a personalized homepage, a MyXYZ layout of modules…all kinds of them. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s stay on the believer’s side for a bit, because it sounds more exciting.

Listen to Tariq Krim, the kid (well, he’s 34, though looks 20), describe it, and you understand why it should have been like this all this while…why the digital wasteland of searches, passwords, services, sites, videos, bank accounts, Fedex tracking, news, and other should have been arranged neatly like this. And to grow his service, he took on a big amount for such a seemingly simple service: $15 million from Index and Accel Partners. The model, as he describes it, even though he doesn’t say in so many words, is a wiki-model of business and service expansion. Let users create all kinds of modules in the framework of the homepage. All you, the user has to do, is drag and drop. Tariq’s ambitions are big, and he says he is building a global service: not U.S., not Europe, but a truly global service…being based in Paris has its disadvantages: he thinks that France is too restrictive…but then the increasingly multicultural Europe is his playground, so he understands the nuances, as he explains in his fluent English. As you keep speaking to him you realize this is how Yahoo 2.0 should look like…a company in desperate need for a reinvention needs an injection of modules…lots and lots of them…after all, if Yahoo is “Life’s Engine” as its previous ad campaign described it, and if it still at core an aggregation service, then this is where both meet, in this 2.0 world.

But enough day dreaming for now, and let’s be rational: It is just a Ajax homepage and anyone can do it. And for that, $15 million? Really? There is Google with its similar efforts; there’s MyYahoo, the grandfather; Microsoft’s Live.com last ditch efforts, copycat startups like Pageflakes and countless others slavishly profiled on TechCrunch. And then, the small question of business models…advertisers modules sounds gimmicky, at best. And for someone to honestly think that you could get world dominating online service out of Paris?

Well, my suggestion: don’t talk to the kid. He will wear you down.

By Rafat Ali

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