Read/Write Web posted today about the decline of the Startpage, the widget driven portal that in theory seems like an ideal way to get newcomers started in using social media and RSS feeds. I still have a Pageflakes page as my homepage here on Firefox on my laptop but I must admit it has become more of a habit to start there whenever I go online more than anything. Pageflakes is quite a nice interface although I hate the big ugly advertising widget that occupies prime unshiftable real estate in the window. According to the post from R/WW, Facebook is the main target now for widget developers and other Startpage platforms like Netvibes and Webwag are still around but the whole concept has not taken off in the big way that was first envisaged.
I've often thought that Startpages would be a useful tool in the classroom and I've created a page that pulls in feeds on a particular topic (like maybe volcanoes in Science, or other topics in social science or inquiry topics) to keep a watch on topical issues that can be tied in with the learning. Often, there are so few widgets developed with an education purpose in mind with trashy entertainment and North American sports dominating the choices. Often it's just as easy to tag stuff in delicious with a specific tag and share that with the kids - the overflow of information from RSS can be overwhelming for the average twelve year old!