Startup targets Yahoo, Google with Web page tools

Pageflakes to offer directory of 10,000 widgets

Pageflakes, which lets communities of users create personalized Internet home pages, next month plans to begin offering a directory of 10,000 "widgets," or small, single-purpose applications that can be used to further customize personal pages.

Dan Cohen, who joined the company as CEO last month after heading up personal home page efforts at Yahoo and Google, said the new centralized directory of "flakes," the company's name for its widgets, will make building a personalized home page easier. Flakes - named to evoke images of lightweight snowflakes or biscuit flakes - can be podcasts, RSS feeds, blogs or other content snippets that users can download.

"My vision and my passion is to make the personalized home page a mass market product," Cohen said. "That means someone like my mom, who is 70 years old ... would be able to use something like this and quickly set it up. The page would configure itself to her interest and needs."

Cohen also is aiming to differentiate Pageflakes from Google and Yahoo's personalized page operations by supporting the community-driven page, where multiple users with a common interest can add content or edit a page, he said.

For example, Pageflakes has a teacher in a small school in Montana who has set up a Pageflakes page for students to view assignments and grades, Cohen said. Fans of the Fox television show "24" have set up a Pageflakes page, he added. One flake allows users to create their own blog on their page or on one that can be used by a community, he noted.

"A teacher, without the involvement of an IT professional and with no programming experience, can search the directory of flakes and add them to the page," he said. "With a few mouse clicks, you can set up a shared page for free that multiple people can use. It's like moving blocks around."

Pageflakes currently offers access to RSS feeds, podcasts and other separate categories of content, Cohen added.

Next month, the company plans to make available the single consolidated directory of flakes. The directory will let users indicate what they are interested in, and relevant flakes would be offered to them, he said. Users will not have to know the definitions of Web 2.0 technologies like RSS feeds, he added.

In addition, the company plans to soon add a MySpace flake to allow a user to monitor another user's MySpace profile page without leaving his own Pageflakes page and a shared photo repository.

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld
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