My browser home page is an HTML file on my hard drive. It has 58 links on it, and I used to use all of them, but I use less and less all the time, and I think the importance of the “home page” is declining steadily.

The reason, of course, is RSS. Just in the last month, two of my regular stop-bys (Dervala.net and the Gibson blog, both wonderful) got RSS feeds, and two more links on my home page became irrelevant.

A few of the political bloggers (e.g. Josh Marshall and Mickey Kaus) are just too neolithic technically to have RSS, as well as some foreign newspapers (Ha'aretz and Asahi News). But all these outposts are going to be getting RSS, bet on it.

That leaves my bank account, my stockbroker, a few technical references, the local airport, and the toons (Doonesbury, C&H, Dilbert, UF) that get visited once per day anyhow.

Maybe hardest-hit, if my example is typical, is Yahoo, I used to hit my.yahoo.com a dozen times per day to see what was new. RSS does that quicker, cheaper, and better.

So, to the extent that you have a dynamic presence and an RSS feed, your homepage doesn't matter that much. Which means, I guess, that while ongoing’s front page gets more traffic than any non-slashdotted individual piece, that probably won't last. Which means that if you want people who land in your Web territory to look sideways at anything other than where they landed, dressing up your home page just isn't going to help.

I don't think the notion of a home page is going away. As a businessman, I am always checking out companies and government agencies and researchers that come across our radar. Normally, you guess at the URI via the www.whoever.com method, use Google if that doesn't work, and you really want there to be a homepage to start at. But this is almost by definition something a regular user wouldn't care much for.

Which makes you wonder if the efforts of all those who are trying so hard to build “portals“ of one kind or another are misdirected; a lot of these people have the assumption that the home page is the one that's going to get used regularly by everyone; but I think increasingly they'll be used more or less once per person, when they first stumble in, and that's that.

Lauren starts up with a blank page; she relies on RSS and bookmarks. Her browser sure does start up fast. Maybe that's the future.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
May 25, 2003
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