Socialization of Personalization

Socialization of Personalization

Dan Fost
July 25 2007 at 04:57 AM

Dan CohenDan Cohen has worked on the personal home pages at two of the biggest Internet firms, helping build My Yahoo and iGoogle. Now he’s running a San Francisco startup, Pageflakes, that is taking that concept into the social networking arena.

"I call it the socialization of personalization," Cohen says.
Personalization meant building a page like MyYahoo that keeps track of
your stocks, your news, your weather, your sports scores and whatever
else you want to read. With Pageflakes you can build that page — and
then make it public, sharing it with the online world a la MySpace or

To be sure, other companies have similar initiatives, from NetVibes to eSnips to Ning.
Like those, Pageflakes uses widgets, those little modules of content
that can be grabbed and moved around and that constantly update
themselves. Pageflakes calls those widgets "flakes"; in thinking of
them as snowflakes (as opposed to breakfast cereal), Pageflakes calls
its latest offering "Blizzard."

But you can’t share NetVibes pages, and eSnips and Ning are more about the networking than the page creation.

Pageflakes is mostly about organizing content that already exists
online, and sharing that. "We expect a lot of our users will never
enter a social network and will continue to create content by
themselves," Cohen said. "We’re not taking on Facebook."

Cohen came by the Chronicle last week and led me through the process of building my own Pageflakes page, and it took hardly any time at all. I put up Tara Hunt’s blog, and my friend’s tea site, and sports, tech and Bay Area news. I could sure see the lure of spending hours, adding to it, tinkering with it, updating it and then alerting everyone I know.

The company boasts that 120,000 people are already sharing their pages. You can find pages on Africa, on technology, and on Leigh and Sunshine, a New Zealand couple who got married, just to name a few.

In addition, Pageflakes has partnered with a host of media
companies, including USA Today, Rolling Stone, CNN,
WashingtonPost-Newsweek Interactive, Entertainment Tonight, The
Insider, Slate, AOL, Die Welt, Bild and others. They will make their
content available, and Pageflakes will send them traffic; no money
changes hands.

It offers more than 240,000 "flakes," a single big flake that offers
what it calls iPod-like "one-button" control, and a wide variety of
themes, as well as the ability to upload your own photos and create
your own art on the page.

Its users number in the "single digit millions," Cohen said, and
it’s growing rapidly. It makes money from revenue-sharing with firms
that it sends business too, such as shopping engines like Cnet’s
MySimon. In addition, it offers some flakes as paid sponsorships. But
it doesn’t clutter up anyone’s page with ads.

Cohen said he is constantly amazed at the different ways people use his service.

"They roll in every day," he said. "It’s a fascinating glimpse into
people’s lives. It’s a way to enrich your mind. I think of it as social
networking above the belt."

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