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Summary:

Dan Cohen, till very recently Head of My Yahoo business for Sunnyvale, California-based web media and search company, has joined personalized web page start-up Pageflakes as its chief executive officer, according to our sources. Cohen left Yahoo towards the end of 2006, proving our theory that […]

Dan Cohen, till very recently Head of My Yahoo business for Sunnyvale, California-based web media and search company, has joined personalized web page start-up Pageflakes as its chief executive officer, according to our sources.

Cohen left Yahoo towards the end of 2006, proving our theory that Yahoo is the favorite farm system for start-up talent. Our sources say he has been working with Pageflakes for a few weeks.

The company is likely to announce a major facelift, including addition of some “social features” that would allow affinity groups – families, Yankee fans, friends – to set up communal pages where they can aggregate photos, videos and other content they want to share amongst themselves. Multiple people can post and maintain the pages, and the access can be restricted.

Cohen, who left Google to join Yahoo, has his work cutout – he has to improve the service and its performance if he wants Pageflakes to catch up with Netvibes. The biggest challenge for Cohen will be to convince users to switch away from dominant My Yahoo service . Google and Microsoft are no pushovers either. He will also have to work hard to repair the reputation of the little start-up, which took a beating due to some bugs.

The company was co-founded in October 2005 by Christoph Janz, Omar AL Zabir, Ole Braundenburg and Shahedul Huq Khandkar. It received seed funding from Benchmark Capital in May 2006. The amount invested in the company is said to range between $1 million to $3 million.

Despite an early start, the company has seemingly failed to keep up with Netvibes. At the DLD conference, Tariq Krim, founder and CEO of Paris-based Netvibes, claimed that the company now has 10 million users. In September 2006, NetVibes claimed to have 5 million users. There has been no independent verification of that data

pageflakesscreenshot5.png.

WebWorkerDaily recently reviewed most of the popular AJAX-based start pages, and felt that the whole group was still a work in progress. There are still no clear business models for many of these companies and not everyone is enamored by the personalized web pages, as seen by the still dominant position enjoyed by My Yahoo.

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  1. Pageflakes will have to pull some magic tricks in order to draw traction to them. I think that this market is saturated.

  2. Wow, huge job downgrade if you ask me. It’s hard to respect a company that — despite trying to appeal to a tech-saavy crowd — can’t even get their code working in Safari after, what, over a year in existence? NetVibes supported Apple since day zero.

  3. I think the Ajax Start Page products are still way too tech savvy and not yet suitable for mainstream users like my parents. Although they check mail, read news, share photos, listen to music on the web everyday. But Pageflakes seems to have done a better job at making the product more mainstream compatible than Netvibes does. Also the ability to create shared pages for families are pretty slick too.

  4. @MikeD — Netvibes is French, where Apple is big. PageFlakes is German, where it isn’t.

  5. Om,
    Just the other day we posted an overview article on ResourceShelf taking a look at what PageFlakes

    http://www.resourceshelf.com/2007/01/24/a-quick-intro-and-overview-of-personalized-web-page-service-pageflakes/

  6. This is a concept that people just won’t stop trying. Reminds me of a Dot com era service called Octopus.

  7. @Vinodh: The difference is that back in the Octopus days there was no AJAX, no RSS, not thousands of APIs, less long-tail content. In other words, many of the services which these sites aggregate today didn’t exist at that time, plus the UI was not compelling.

    @Om: Pageflakes actually didn’t have such an early start. They started about half a year or so later than Netvibes. Seems like they did a pretty good job of catching up. In any case, I think Pageflakes clearly has the best product although Netvibes is nice too.

  8. I have to confess, the only reason I gave this article any attention is because when it showed up in my Google Reader I just couldn’t stop looking at the gorgeous blonde in the screenshot! Have mercy on me this early in the morning, please!

  9. I’ve used both, and Netvibes has a much cleaner and easier to use interface than Page Flakes.

  10. @Scott: You may be right, but that points squarely at the short-sightedness of the approach PageFlakes took. Tariq knew that in order to get NetVibes in front of as many people as possible, he needed to appeal to the early adopters and zealots first. Those people helped do his bidding for him. And a lot of those people are Mac people. PageFlakes, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care, nor do they care about knowingly borking RSS statistics for months on end. I’ve designed plenty of web sites and applications in my life, from my personal blog to the largest sports web site in the world, ESPN, and never once have I had any problems supporting all major browsers. It’s a question of belief rather than skill.

  11. Robert Yeager Friday, January 26, 2007

    Protopage is my start page of choice. Protopage allows collapsed windows to be opened with an efficient mouse over on the title bar, while the last time I tried Netvibes and Pageflakes they required clicks to toggle a window’s collapsed state.

    Actually, I think there is a large business opportunity…start pages are tremendous productivity tools.

    By combining tabs, RSS readers, widgets, and web clippings, I can’t imagine having to live without Protopage. It is much better than browser tabs alone, b/c my entire “desktop” is virtual and accessible from anywhere.

    I use my Protopage desktop far more than my Windows desktop…a true sign of the irrelevance of a desktop operating system nowadays.

    I believe start pages have a bright future ahead.

  12. FYI, less than 20% of my.yahoo.com users actually personalize the page. I highly doubt that these AJAX startpages will ever adopted by the mainstream public!.

  13. Jeremy Goodrich Friday, January 26, 2007

    There are so many Yahoo’s that have left to become director, VP, SVP, or C level officers at other companies, it’s a might long list if you put it all together. I left Yahoo in 2006 to start a consulting practice, and while I love many people that I used to work with there, it seems at least 50% or more of the real talent I knew has moved on.

    I wish David well with PageFlakes – that data issue re: the inflation of their numbers (either intentional or not) probably got them a good amount of intention…as they say, any PR is good PR :)

    Still, the model for these things isn’t there (imho) because it presupposes that you can’t get or don’t want a certain service as your start page.

  14. Pageflakes is a very good startpage but Netvibes is definitely the winner of personalized homepages
    This company should be bought soon I guess..

  15. Why would anyone leave Google for Yahoo? I give this guy 6 months before he leaves or is kicked out.

  16. Vincent Garry Friday, January 26, 2007

    It’s way too early to declare a winner in this market. I bet most average users have never heard of neither Netvibes nor Pageflakes – yet. I think they both have a bright future. If you try Pageflakes and compare it with, say, Google’s homepage you’ll know what I mean!

  17. NewTeeVee » Where to Find Fresh Video: Pageflakes Wednesday, March 7, 2007

    [...] has funding from Benchmark Capital and recently brought on the former head of My Yahoo, Dan Cohen, as its CEO. Share/E-mail Sphere Topic: Software, Online [...]

  18. Omar Al Zabir Monday, May 14, 2007

    Pageflakes is the number one in the world. Netvibes suck, Live.com suck, google suck. pageflakes is the best.

  19. GigaOM NetVibes, now with one less CEO « Tuesday, July 3, 2007

    [...] and other personalized page start-ups are entering a tenuous phase, where they face not only increased competition from each other, but also face increasingly energized large companies, that are preparing their one [...]

  20. Clock Ticking On Pageflakes? – GigaOM Sunday, April 13, 2008

    [...] CEO Dan Cohen, formerly of Yahoo denied that the company was running out of cash. He invited me to a fancy lunch and offered to pay [...]

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