Netvibes is doing its darnedest to be more than just a Web 2.0 portal, more than an online feed reader — although it does those things quite well, with Ajaxy drag-and-drop and a sleek usability.
They name their versions after seasoning agents: this new one is called Ginger, an upgrade from Coriander. The transition isn’t too jarring when the end-user clicks the Upgrade Me To Ginger link, but behind the scenes there’s some cool stuff going on.
With the new edition, Netvibes has introduced a Universal Widget API, a cross-platform specification for widgets that work on Netvibes, iGoogle, Mac’s Dashboard, Opera, and “soon” Facebook, Ning, and the OpenSocial constellation of social networking applications. In practice, there are not very many UWA widgets to choose from yet; you can’t just grab your favorite Dashboard thingy and put it on your Netvibes page. It will be lovely if the cross-platform API takes off, but that remains to be seen.
In addition to their customized start pages, users are now encouraged to create “universes,” public collections of feeds and widgets. This is a move into Facebook/MySpace territory; public universes so far include ones from People Weekly and Crutchfield car audio. You can do things like add Crutchfield as a friend and follow its every move on Netvibes. Netvibes Universes have a ways to go.