Imagine if someone was peering over your shoulder, looking at the kinds of websites that you frequent, and then presenting you with more of the same or related content that they think you would like.
Would that be the best thing ever?, or the worst? Depending on how you answer that, you may really like or really dislike Genieo, a free, magazine style personal startpage that aggregates content from all over the web, based largely on the sites that you visit and/or sites that are similar.
Note that Genieo also has a ‘Personal Magazine’ option that integrates with Facebook and is designed for sharing with others and for reading on-the-go on a device. Strangely, this seemed to be broken when I tried to test it.
For the privacy minded, it is important to clarify: while Genieo does monitor your browsing behavior, it purports to do so solely on your computer, and to not be sending anything to a remote server.
But the important question is: what kind of user experience does Genieo provide? In fact there’s a lot to like about it and some things that can be improved. Here’s a list of PROS and CONS:
- The content discovery experience: is actually quite interesting. Genieo obviously does not simply serve sites you have visited but related sites as well. Interestingly, the content presented includes a lot of forums and the like with some vital, new content, which I like.
- Makes it ‘relatively’ easy to manage content being served: you can click on a little ‘x’ in the corner of each post and manage that content source right then and there.
- Geneio default search and homepage is OPT OUT: the option, in the installer, has to be actively checked/opted in for Geneio to do this inside your browser. At a time when most installers will have you jump through hoops to opt out, this is refreshing.
- At times seems to be taking over your PC: it installs services that start with Windows and serve you notifications near the system tray area, and the ‘Personal Magazine’ option wants to post on your Facebook. Admittedly, this is not unusual these days as every app seems bent on doing it. On the positive side, the desktop notifications can be easily turned off in the settings. In fact I imagine a lot of people might quite like the desktop notifications, which are not unattractive (see below).
- Few options to customize the look and feel: I can live with the ads in the sidebar, but a huge chunk of screen real estate is taken up at the top of the page with a Genieo search box, which I will never use and which apparently cannot be removed.
- The ‘Personal Magazine’ option does not work: or at least it did not work for me. It is rather off-putting to grant an app access to your Facebook only to have the whole thing crash and not work (‘Server Error’).
I write this up for a single reason: we all know and like the concept of ‘music discovery’; the notion of ‘content discovery’ is similarly very appealing. Most startup pages will aggregate RSS feeds and update them, but these lack the serendipity and the sense of the unexpected that Genieo delivers quite successfully.
If you’re worried about your privacy this sort of thing may not be for you, even as I see no reason to doubt that none of your behavioral information is actually being sent outside of your desktop. The main drawback for me is the feeling that Genieo is a little invasive and over the top, but you can invest some of your time setting it up exactly the way you want it. You could even stop or prevent it from being your browser start page altogether, and only visit via a bookmark to peruse some interesting, custom content that you will probably like.
If you try it .. let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Get Genieo here (Windows, Mac. Compatible with most modern browsers). Note that you will need to register and confirm your registration before the download is enabled.