Personalisation used to be the future of the web. Then it wasn’t. Now it is again. The search engines have led the way, with My Yahoo, Google‘s personalised homepage and Microsoft’s live.com. Now the content sites are pitching in, with BBC News adding a ‘beta’ personalised component to their homepage.
To their credit, it’s extremely well done. Initially just a box to enter your postcode, and bingo – local news and weather. If you want to add headlines for a given sport (or football team), you get an additional option to do that too. (Not tied to your local area… shall we call this the ‘Man Utd factor’?) No need to register. No username or password. And a ‘hide’ button to (more or less) remove it if you don’t want it.
If anyone was going to offer this, and make it worthwhile, it could really only be the Beeb. Nobody else has the breadth and depth of content.
But it isn’t a huge step forward; as Paul Brannan writes on the Editors’ Blog, with admirable restraint, it’s about making the site ‘just a bit more convenient’.
We have the toolset for the truly personalised web, in the form of RSS feeds. I take several feeds from the BBC site, and combine them with many others into ‘my personal view of the web’ within my chosen RSS tool (currently Bloglines). But it’s nice to let people reduce the amount of clickage from the homepage. And if it’s easy enough to do, at no additional expense, hey – why not.