Friday, December 08, 2006

Pagebull - your visual Internet search engine

A few days ago, Pagebull went from stealth mode into public beta. Pagebull is the latest brainchild of my good friend and long-term business partner Christopher M√ľnchhoff. It's a new search engine that provides a radically new user interface: Instead of a text-based list of the sites that match your search query, it shows you a grid of large screenshots of those sites.

The idea behind Pagebull's approach is that when you go to a site, you'll often know after a second if the site has what your looking for or not - and an inappropriate amount of time is wasted going back and forth between Google and the "target" sites. Pagebull now lets you glance over nine or more screenshots at a time, saving you the effort of clicking from one target site to the next.

What's interesting is that Pagebull benefits from two important industry trends: More bandwidth and larger screens. Using Pageflakes on a 30" screen and a super-fast cable connection must be fun!

It would be interesting to conduct a study to find out how much time Pagebull saves an average Internet user who spends, say, an hour per week on Google. Then just extrapolate that to all American office workers, and the US economy can probably save a few billion worth of productivity per year. ;-)

Seriously: Pagebull will not drive Google out of business any time soon, but it's an extremely impressive, innovate approach to improve the search engine user experience on the Web.

Try it!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pageflakes 2.0

About two weeks ago we launched a new version of Pageflakes and it's time to finally announce it here, too! If you go to the site, you will notice the big facelift that the site received. The fresh new look might be the most visible change, but it's by far not the only one. The long list of improvements and new features of the new version includes:

Check out the new site!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ugenie unlocks hidden savings

TechCrunch today profiled a new comparison shopping site called Ugenie. What makes Ugenie different from most (all?) other similar sites is that the service not only finds the best price on a single item but also the best total price on any bundle of books, CDs, DVDs or games that you happen to be interested in.

Ugenie finds the best bottom-line prices for you, taking into account shipping costs, taxes and discounts. What's more, the service also takes into account that sometimes it's cheaper to pay all items from one merchant but in other cases it's cheaper to spread an order across several shops. If you think about the number of possible combinations to buy, say, five items from 35 shops, that's quickly becoming pretty complicated. And remember that in addition to the plain item prices, Ugenie also needs to take into account shipping costs, which can depend on various factors like the number of items, the order price and the order weight, or a combination thereof. The fact that taxes can depend on the location of the shop as well as the location of the customer doesn't make it easier.

Why am I writing about Ugenie? Because I really like the feature described above, because it's a cool service and because I remain interested in the comparison shopping space ever since co-founding comparison shopping site (formerly called Acses) in 1997. But also because I couldn't resist telling the world that we invented the "best price for a bundle of items" feature back in 1998. ;-)

Here's the proof:

What you're seeing here is the "Comparison Shopping Cart" (that's how we coined it) of a user who's looking for a book, a movie (no, not a DVD, a VHS cassette!) and a CD. If the user scrolls down he'd see a list of all offers, taking into account all those factors described above.

Don't worry guys, we didn't patent it. Good luck with Ugenie!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Pete is now a believer, Mike coming soon

When we launched Pageflakes, two of the Top Five Web 2.0 bloggers - Mike Arrington from TechCrunch and Pete Cashmore from Mashable - were very sceptical about Pageflakes. They thought we were too late and also questioned the viability of the whole AJAX startpage model.

We took up the challenge, and in some blog comments I wrote that one of my goals for 2006 is to convince these two chaps that Pageflakes is the Next Big Thing. I guess we're not that far yet, but we already have a triumph to celebrate. See what Pete blogged yesterday:

Pageflakes - I was dead wrong about Pageflakes. When the product was heading for launch, I told co-founder Christoph Janz that the start page market was already too crowded. As it turns out, Pageflakes is now one of the top ajax homepages, putting your feeds, videos and pictures together on a collection of tabbed pages. Christoph also (wisely) ignored me when I said I didn’t like the name - I seem to remember that SoleSite was the other option.
We still have 89 days left to convince Mike, too. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The third generation of Internet usage

Richard MacManus started an interview series on Read/WriteWeb. In the first one he asked Judy Gibbons of Accel about her thoughts on the "next generation web". Read it here.

Richard asked Judy for a few examples of companies that are under-hyped. Judy's answer:
Personal home pages like Pageflakes & Netvibes. These represent the third generation of Internet usage: first portals because there was little content and it was hard to find; second search because there was an ever increasing amount of content if you could only track it down; now personalized 'pull' home pages, because most sophisticated users know what content and apps they want to check into every day - and they want these brought to them to improve productivity.

While we can't complain about not getting enough attention, I do completely agree with Judy that most people haven't yet fully realized the impact which startpages like Pageflakes and Netvibes can have in the future. Currently both Pageflakes and Netvibes appeal mainly to early adopters like you and me – TechCrunch readers who manage their bookmarks with, upload their photos at Flickr and use a bunch of other Web 2.0 services which 90% of the general population never heard of.

But what you see on sites like Pageflakes today is a mere glimpse of what they can offer in the future (stay tuned!). As they cover more and more parts of users' digital lives, offer access to an ever increasing variety of mainstream services and become easier to use for casual Internet users, they will indeed be able to represent the "third generation of Internet usage", as Judy put it. If you will, companies like Pageflakes strive to become for Web 2.0 what AOL and Yahoo were for Web 0.5 and what Google is for Web 1.0.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Long time no blog

I warned you in my very first posting that I'm lazy about writing and that I didn't know how frequently I would post something. But four months without a posting, I didn't know that I'd be that bad! I probably chose the worst possible timing for starting a blog, since I started it around the same time when we founded Pageflakes.

Trying to become the #1 startpage in the world doesn't leave you a lot of time for anything else. :-) But I should at least give you a little update on what's been keeping me so busy:

  • Hari K. Gottipati of O'Reilly and Barbara Krasnoff of InformationWeek just picked Pageflakes as the Ajax king in the "webtop" category - ahead of Google and Microsoft. Read the story here and here (And after that, digg it!)

  • About two weeks ago we released our all-new RSS reader. The new version lets you read all your favorite blogs and needs feeds in one window and offers various different views to meet everyone's individual reading habit.

  • You can now customize your page even more by choosing from different color schemes and changing the number of columns.

  • Maybe the coolest of all features, we've recently added the ability to share pages with selected friends as well as to make pages public.

  • In addition we've added numerous flakes, bringing the flake count close to 100. For example, you can now read and write emails from your startpage with Mail Flake; watch videos with Metacafe Flake, Revver Flake and YouTube Flake; keep track of your social network with openBC Flake, and so much more. Check them out in our Flake Gallery.

Despite these new features, please keep in mind that we're still in beta and that we haven't even delivered 5% of what we plan for the future. Back to work - see you at my next posting, presumably around Christmas! ;-)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Hottest Web 2.0 Betas

The "Museum of Modern Betas", a site that is dedicated to keeping track of all those new Web 2.0 apps that are popping up every day, added a great resource to its site: The hottest betas in the webosphere. The list is based on the number of bookmarks at added within the last 7 days, which is a really interesting parameter. Pretty interesting for everyone who tries to discover successful startups before everyone else does (VCs, journalists,...).

Friday, March 31, 2006

Pageflakes wins Web 2.0 Award

Quoting from Ole's blog:

Yes, we do know that there are quite a few awards out there. Yes, we do also know that some of them are not very well researched and show little depth. However, has certainly raised the bar in terms of depth and research quality. Over the past few months they have analized hundreds of Web 2.0 sites - and Pageflakes has won the award for best Start Page! Google personalized pages came second, (Microsoft) came third. You will find a detailed list and all the winners (and runners-up) at

Thanks to Kat Ortland who has been the driving force behind the research. We hope that you enjoy Pageflakes as much as she does.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pageflakes Server Problem

Some famous people lend their names (which for some reason always start with an "M") to laws which we all love (Moore, Metcalfe). And then there are guys like Murphy.

To make a long story short, due to Murphy's Law and an insane amount of bad luck (what is the probability of two HD crashes within two days?), Pageflakes has been down or very slow for most of the past 48 hours. Needless to say, we're working like crazy to bring the site back.

We've very sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding and your patience!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dream job for a Web savvy student

Christian Leybold of BV Capital just posted a job opening to his blog. He's looking for someone to help him research young Internet companies. If you're serious about Web 2.0, it basically means you're getting paid for what you're doing the whole day (and maybe the whole night too) anyway. If you think you might fit the requirements, go ahead and apply. I'm sure you'll like it.

ZDNet reviews AJAX desktops

ZDNet's Richard MacManus reviews the AJAX desktop space. About Pageflakes he says:

Just released earlier this month, but potentially Pageflakes will be the most open of all the AJAX homepages. It offers standard modules (which it calls "flakes") like blogs, news, search, note, Flickr, There are more modules in development by Pageflakes, third-party developers and "content partners". It's developer page lists a broad range of options for developers to build modules, so this is a promising start by Pageflakes. [...]

Among the smaller companies, Pageflakes seems to be the most promising with its API support. [...]

He also writes about the same topic on his (must-read) ReadWriteWeb blog. Among other things, he has a look at the Alexa traffic charts of the different players. One of his interesting observations is this:

Update: A source at Microsoft tells me that the figure on Alexa may include, which gets a lot of traffic. If that's the case, take the following paragraph with a grain of salt...

I recently noticed that, while unsurprisingly having much more traffic than the start-ups, isn't bookmarked more frequently than Netvibes and Pageflakes on I was wondering if may have a lot of traffic (very easy to achieve for Microsoft) but few real users who actually bookmark the site and come back? Richard's observation might be an explanation for the discrepancy between the Alexa numbers and the numbers. Maybe bookmarks are a better proxy to guesstimate another site's user base than Alexa after all?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New Visitors vs. Returning Visitors

cIf you have a website or even run an Internet startup, you should pay a lot of attention to your new visitors vs. returning visitors ratio. After all, you want to make sure that you're able to retain your customers. If you're fortunate enough to have a Google Analytics account, you won't overlook this parameter as it is shown on the first page of this absolutely awesome (and free) traffic analyzer. But what percentage of returning visits should you strive for? If you have no answer to that question, you may not able to draw any conclusions from the numbers.

Is 100% a good value? Of course not. It means you're not acquiring any new visitors. 0%? Not good either, since you're not able to retain your visitors in that case. So the answer must be somewhere between >0% and <100%. If this sounds like a non-statement to you, are you sure that you wouldn't have instinctively answered "as high as possible", asked about the optimal percentage of return visits? :)

To be honest, I don't know the correct answer to that question either (but I will look into it, and if you run a website maybe you should too!). In fact, there's not one single correct answer, as it depends on several factors such as "how often does a good customer of your site visit the site per week?". And these factors differ for different businesses.

Maybe the question is rather academic (but I still find it interesting). Common sense tells you that you must look at several parameters to draw good conclusions. If you look at your overall traffic stats, you should be able to tell if a rising return visit ratio is a sign of increasing customer retention or just a sign of sluggish new user acquisition.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Online Ajax 'desktops' try to change the rules of the game"

ZDNet has a really neat introduction into the AJAX Desktop space:

Online Ajax "desktops" try to change the rules of the game

Written by Dion Hinchcliffe, the article lists some of the reasons why AJAX Desktops are so compelling. And of course I'm happy that just a week after our Beta Launch, Pageflakes is already recognized as "one of the best offerings" by a proven Web 2.0 expert.

Friday, February 10, 2006

New Pageflakes feature: Multiple pages

Did you notice that too? If you add some flakes and feeds, the page quickly beomes pretty crowded. One page simply doesn't offer enough space to accommodate all those useful flakes and feeds. The obvious answer: Let users have multiple pages.

Thanks to out extraordinary development team we just added this feature, and I think it's really neat. For example, you can create one page related to your job, another one for your family and yet another one for your hobby. Play around with it a little, I'm sure you'll like it!

BTW, we also added a new Map Flake based on MSN Map. Check it out!

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pageflakes Releases Public Beta

We're thrilled to announce the release of our Public Beta! Over the past weeks, we fixed many bugs and glitches, implemented numerous improvements, added support for Firefox and created a number of really nice flakes. Thanks to all users and developers who provided us with their valuable feedback!

Pageflakes now features:

  • Address Book: Manage your contacts right from your personal startpage that you can access from anywhere.
  • Price Comparison: Start price comparisons using a variety of different comparison shopping engines like and mySimon. Also features price comparison engines from the UK and Germany.
  • Flickr: This one can make your page look beautiful. Select photos by tag, date or Flickr user.
  • Alexa Traffic: Keep an eye on the traffic of up to five sites.
  • Web Search: Start Web searches using Google, Yahoo, MSN or Look for Web pages, images, news or Usenet discussions.
  • Dictionary: Title says it!
  • Note: A simple notepad, like a digital version of Post-it® notes.
  • To-Do-List: You can set up multiple lists and tasks and receive reminders by email. Really helps you to get things done.
  • GMail: Keep track on incoming mails to your GMail account.
  • Shopping Search: Start shopping searches using
  • Movie Find: Quick access to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and
  • What’s Next on BBC: For our visitors from the UK.
  • Zoho Writer Docs: Access your Zoho Writer documents right from Pageflakes.
  • Yahoo! Weather: Enter your ZIP code and get the current local weather plus a forecast.
  • Your bookmarks on Pageflakes.
  • SMS: Send a free text message!

...and the list goes on.

In addition to that, of course you can also subscribe to news feeds and blogs. This is implemented in a very simple way so far, but a full-fledged RSS reader is coming soon.

We hope you enjoy the site! If you like it, recommend it to your friends. When you check out the site, please bear in mind that this is still a Beta Version. So, please forgive any inconveniences, and let us know if you experience any bugs.

OK, I gotta go back to work. Many new features and improvements are under way. :-)

eHub Interviews Pageflakes

Read it here

Monday, February 06, 2006

FON + Skype + Netgear = Trouble for BigTelco

Skype announced that it invests in FON, the P2P WiFi company I blogged about earlier. Add to this new PC-less Skype phones from Netgear, Creative and others (see a posting of Christian Leybold from BV Capital) and you have the ingredients for some major trouble for the traditional telco business.

Of course, this is not new. Skype alone is an incredibly disruptive force. But the flood of new products and services centered around Skype shows just how strong the creative destruction is which Skype has triggered. I'm not saying that the big telcos are doomed. But they must find new cash cows - selling long-distance minutes at high prices will become increasingly difficult.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm up for the challenge, Mike! :-)

I already knew that Mike Arrington is very sceptical about AJAX desktops like Pageflakes.

Today I learned that he is similarly sceptical about online calendars like CalendarHub:

Ajax calendars are faily commonplace now (they are kissing cousins to Ajax home pages as far as I’m concerned) and seem to be breeding just as prolifically.

So, one of the most influential persons from the Web 2.0 world basically says that the two startups I'm involved with are doomed.

What should I say? Maybe just this: I'm up for the challenge, Mike! :-)

P.S.: I know that Mike wishes every startup success, so I know that while he fears we may fail he doesn't hope so.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pageflakes nearing launch

We’re getting closer to our Public Beta in large steps. Here’s a little update:

  • Pageflakes can now be viewed with Firefox and Opera. You might still experience a bug though. Please forbear with us – we’re working hard to offer 100% Firefox, Opera and Safari support ASAP. It won’t take long until we’re done.
  • We created a really cool Address Book Flake. We tried to keep it simple (in a 37signals kind of way) and I’m very happy with the result. We will add some more very useful features to this Flake in the future (e.g. import/export and printing of contacts), but we’ll make sure that usability won’t suffer. Check it out!
  • Another really cool new module is our To-Do-List Flake. It allows you to manage multiple To-Do-Lists, set due times and receive email reminders. When a task is done, tick the checkbox and it’ll be stroked-through. Hit “delete” and it will be removed completely. Simple! This comes very handy for people like me who lose everything they write on paper and who’re thus trying to put every bit of information online.
  • Thanks to our fantastic Community Developers, we’ve been able to add several applications from independent developers already, just five weeks after the Developer Release: My personal favourites include the Flake, the Movie Finder Flake and the Bushisms Flake, but be sure to try and enjoy them all. You’ll find them under “Add Content”.
  • Together with the folks over at AdventNet Inc., we created a little module that lets you access your Zoho Writer documents right from your personal startpage. Pretty handy. Thanks, guys!
  • Many glitches fixed, but still some to fix before we can launch the site big.

Many new exciting flakes are in the works – by our own developer team as well as by Community Developers and companies we’ve partnered with. So, stay tuned!

If you check out the site, please bear in mind that we’re not in Public Beta yet. So, please forgive any inconveniences, and let us know what you like and what you don’t like.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pandora's Box

Most readers probably know Pandora, but maybe there are still some who don't. Pandora is a wonderful music service that lets you listen to a music selection tailored to your taste. You start by entering the name of a band or a title that you like. Pandora then starts playing songs of a similar style. You can rate any song you hear to educate Pandora about your taste, so over the time the selection becomes better and better.

You can read a little bit about the underlying magic here. I assume in addition to the results from The Music Genome Project they utilize collaborative filtering (like Amazon's "if you like this book, you may also like these books" feature) so that the service will automatically become better as more users use it. I still don't know exactly how it works, but it seems to work pretty well. I like the majority of the songs suggested by Pandora and stumbled on great music by bands I never heard of before. So either it works, or I'm such a philistine that you could play any song to me and I'll like it.

In any case you should try it. Amazingly, it's even free.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

$22,000,000 per employee

Yesterday Piper Jaffray rose its price target for Google to $600, reminding me of Henry Blodget's famous recommendation in the dot-com frenzy days. At today's close of $445.24, Google's market cap is about $131.6B, with an enterprise value of about $121.0B.

Divide that by 5,500 employees (5,000 as of September 30, 2005 - the rest is just a guess), and you get $22M for every employee. Not bad! I'm wondering if any public company ever achieved a higher value per employee. Does this mean that Google is overvalued? No. Maybe it is, maybe it's not - I don't know.