The new Windows Live initiative that Microsoft launched with much fanfare recently — which was followed up by the two “sea change” memos from Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie — included an AJAX-driven customizable webpage at www.live.com, which was kind of buggy but promised to allow users to design their own home page and include RSS feeds of their choice, as well as other content. Which is a great idea, except for one thing: not only is Google already doing this to some extent with its home page, but a little startup called Netvibes.com is already doing it way better than either one of them.
I used to run my own RSS aggregator and feed reader based on a Linux server in my basement (running Debian and “feed on feeds” if you’re interested), but lately I’ve been using Netvibes.com, and it is fantastic. It is fast, customizable, accepts almost any feed — including tag-targeted feeds from Technorati.com — and updates the feeds automatically. Clicking a link opens a window with the item, and a link to open it in a new browser tab or window. When you’re done reading a feed, a simple click on a small arrow at the top of the box with the feed in it “rolls up” the window. You can also add a weather applet and a search box, and of course like most AJAX-y pages, you can drag all the boxes around and arrange them any way you want. Fast. Simple. Easy. Free.