Web Browser Homepage

Does anyone use a homepage for their browser anymore?

The homepage seemed like all the rage back in the beginning of the web.  Until IE 7 there was a function in JavasScript you could use, this never worked in Firefox but still lots of sites used it trying to get people to set their site as the browser homepage.

document.setHomePage("http://clarkbw.net/blog/"); /* score! */

I have been using about:blank as my homepage for so long now that homepages could have come back in style and I would have no idea.  Even if they were cool again, I still have a number of issues with most homepage designs / implementations.

Slow.  Even though google.com/ig is pretty fast to load, I still hate waiting for it to load. The blank page is almost instantaneous.  A local page could be very fast as well.  Maybe something could be done to get the browser to a usable state (non-blocking) if it knew it was loading a homepage?

Distracting.  When I start the browser up I’m often headed somewhere, I have a goal in mind.  Either I’m looking to find something new or I’m looking to go back to someplace I’ve been before.  Almost never do I open up my browser and hope it will have things ready for me to do.  And if I do see something of interest on my homepage odds are my ADD will kick in and I won’t have a clue what I was originally looking for; that’s the last thing I need.

Static.   Ok it’s probably not a actual static page (do people do that?), the homepage could be one of those “awesome portals” of circa 1990s technology.  From there I can collect lots of little widgets and attempt to arrange them all on my screen.  Then those widgets could light up with lots of different information that isn’t static.  Of course I’m still responsible for managing the widgets, finding new ones, removing old ones, and ordering them all so they fit nicely.  Wheee!!

Pushing the Envelope with technology from 1980

A while back when I was researching information for the Epiphany project and I had looked at a number of people who were using their Bookmarks.html page as their homepage.

It had some great effects because it was local and fast, you could search it fairly effectively with the browser search, and it had all the places you go to often (assuming you bookmark them).  The only problem I saw was that it moved the problem of a static nature over to something else, your bookmarks manager; from there you now had to manage things on your homepage.  And you had to bookmark everything you wanted to go back to.

That seemed close, except that I don’t like to manage my bookmarks, it’s about as fun as cleaning my room.  Zero Management?  Is that possible?  I’m not sure it’s possible to have a useful homepage with zero management required, but I really want it.

What are people using?

What are people using for their current homepage and why?  Is everyone using the about:blank like me?  My mom uses whatever page ATT&T (her ISP) happened to set as the default for her homepage.  Most of my friends haven’t changed their homepage from whatever the default was, when asked none of them really thought about the difference it might make.

57 responses to “Web Browser Homepage

  1. I never really thought about it but I use about:blank too. Most of the times I know where I want to go and having something else populate the url bar while I am typing is annoying.

  2. I use two tabs: Gmail & Google Reader – two things that I keep open at all times. Gmail suits me better than Evolution and Google Reader is the only way I can keep up with the feeds “wherever I may roam”.

  3. Giacomo

    Been using “about:” (it displays some basic informations about the browser version) since at least 2003. Its fast, it’s not ugly, it’s useful at least when I’m upgrading to quickly check which version I’m using.

    To tell the truth, since firefox 2.0 I’ve enabled the session saving and restoring option, so now my “homepage” are the 4-5 sites I’m sure I’m going to check (planet.gnome.org, planet.freedesktop.org, a couple forums and newpapers sites), and eventually the page I couldn’t read in the previous session.

  4. Giacomo

    Been using “about:” (it displays some basic informations about the browser version) since at least 2003. Its fast, it’s not ugly, it’s useful at least when I’m upgrading to quickly check which version I’m using.

    To tell the truth, since firefox 2.0 I’ve enabled the session saving and restoring option, so now my “homepage” are the 4-5 sites I’m sure I’m going to check (planet.gnome.org, planet.freedesktop.org, a couple forums and newpapers sites), and eventually the pages I couldn’t read in the previous session.

  5. Adam

    plain google.com here

  6. Name

    I use google.com/ig, but only for new windows. New tabs open to about:blank.

  7. erik

    about:blank or similar. You are correct on that – most of the time people have a goal and it’s not their home page.

  8. Michael Banck

    I have no idea what I use, because I start up epiphany in exactly two ways: (i) it (or the ThinkPad) crashed and recovers my tabs to the previous state or (ii) I right-click on a link somewhere, and it pops up with that URL.

    Browser homepages are from the days when persistence wasn’t there.

  9. M Welinder

    I have a file:// based homepage. It’s basically just an organized
    pile of links. It loads instantly, fits non-scrolled on my screen,
    and it is much faster to navigate than the bookmarks menu will
    ever be.

  10. Evan Hempel

    I use SessionManager — so its whatever I was looking at last.

  11. Normally, about:blank. My homepage on my machine at my day job is a custom HTML page with links to everything I do, and my homepage on the machine I use for freelance work at home is a PHP page which automatically generates links to in-progress projects and shows my task list from Remember The Milk.

  12. Rafael Jannone

    Try Opera. They have this “Speed Dial” feature, where you have a selection of thumbnailed channels to choose from on startup.

    It’s very quick to load, very easy to configure, and it just makes a lot of sense.

  13. I’m the same way – about:blank for me to avoid the delay.

  14. I’m the same way – about:blank for me to avoid the delay.

    Also, here’s a demo of the Opera “Speed Dial” mentioned above (I haven’t tried it, but it’s interesting): http://www.opera.com/support/tutorials/flash/speeddial/

  15. I’d use the Opera-style speed-dial if it was integrated in my browser of choice. See:
    http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=455173

  16. John Stowers

    Google homepage and Session Manager

  17. Daniel

    Whenever I open a web browser I already know where I want to go, so really the only thing that matters is how quickly can I get to the location field to type in the URL (or a magic URL shortcut that the browser understands). In this context the about:blank page is the best option since its quickest to load.

    At the same time though in my GNOME desktop the panel already has an instance of the ‘command line’ applet for launching commands. Now if there were some way for this applet to accept URLs and automatically launch the browser I’d never even see a homepage, nor have any need for one.

    Or simply have a dedicated ‘url loader’ applet which was an applet with just a text field which launched the default browser as configured in GNOME. If it could show the actual browser history in the URL field as a drop down that’d be even better.

    Or maybe just start the browser automatically when you login to GNOME & have it embed its URL field in the panel right from start of day – after all who doesn’t have their web browser open 24×7 these days.

  18. Another vote for Opera’s speed dial. But I think Firefox could do better still by providing an extensible widgets system.

  19. Toshio

    My home page is set to a planet. But since firefox 2.0 came out I never use it anymore. On startup, I open firefox with the twenty or so tabs I was working on closing when I shutdown. Then I don’t shutdown for a week (or longer if I can help it). Most of the time I don’t intend to look at any of those tabs right off. My first experience with the browser for the day is either clicking on a link in IRC/email or hitting ^T and typing something to search for into firefox’s search box. Whatever page was open just gets ignored until I have some free moments to look over what I was working on yesterday.

    This works great as long as I’m connected to the network when I open the browser and I remember to clean out the duplicate tabs and things I’m not actually going to read.

  20. Simon

    I do have something set as the homepage – a page on my localhost webserver with a few convenient links on it – but I’ve configured Firefox to not display it unless I actually hit the Home button. It doesn’t appear when opening a new window or tab.

    Essentially, I’m using the feature as a special bookmark, rather than as the default browsing page that it’s traditionally meant to be.

  21. Bill

    about:blank for the main window, with a custom file:// sidebar of links/bookmarks/search widgets. Yeah, I’m weird.

  22. For me it’ll either be like a few people here, whatever was open in the browser the last time I opened it or my del.icio.us bookmarks

  23. I have three “workflow” categories in my del.icio.us bookmarks: personal, school and work.

    If I didn’t already have a session open, I populate tabs from those bookmarks.

  24. Florian

    Another vote for opera speed dial. It is just as fast to load as about:blank, and more usefull. And you can ignore it when you’re headed somewhere else.
    Otherwise, in epiphany, I have google as a home page.

  25. Jesse Keating

    I have a home page set of tabs. I do this because I generally launch firefox once, when I log in, and it just stays running. I never open new windows, just new tabs. I have a set of sites that I use as part of my job and I always want those loaded and in a specific tab order at the “front” of my tab set, so I just have them marked as my home set.

  26. jtin

    I use an actual home page. You know, the sort whose URL ends in /~username/… Most of my worky web usage consists of specialized searches, so I’ve got search boxes for Google, Google custom, Google university, delicious, CPAN, perldoc, Wikipedia, and Worldcat.

    Also, it displays the weather forecast, what’s playing on my favorite classical music station, and the load on the university compute cluster.

  27. thp

    i’ve actually seen people having Google’s “Firefox Start” as their web page and their browsing experience starts with them typing the URL they want to go to into the Google search box, hitting [Enter] and finally clicking on the first search result of the resulting Google search.

    I think the “restore session” feature is what I’ll be using in the future, currently using “about:blank”.

  28. I use http://politiken.dk which is a Danish news site. I don’t really want to look at it when I start my browser, but I love the fact that I can open that page by clicking Alt-Home.

  29. I am also use about:blank for speed reasons.
    I enabled session saving in Firefox 2.0 and I am ambivalent about it: sometime is useful, but in other cases is just annoying.

  30. Boke

    I use about:blank at home because I open and close my browser often, and use netvibes.com at work since I only open it once for all day.

  31. Baptiste Mille-Ma...

    Hello Bryan,

    I use the about:blank page (for a long time, back in IE 4.0) for the same reasons than you, speed, and no distractions.
    Having a startup webpage, slows the availability of the browser

    PS: Brian, the length of the “Name” field is too small for people with a long name like the one I have :)

  32. about:blank here too.

    Actually I’ve been thinking about the same thing, an automatic built-in homepage with zero maintenance. I never manage bookmarks because that’s too much of a hassle.

    Why can’t firefox just remember the sites I visit frequently and use that to automagically create a homepage with:

    - Often visited URL’s
    - Recently visited URL’s
    - and ofcourse bookmarks

  33. Pingback: Around the Browsersphere #3

  34. Ross Burton

    I use about:crap because I haven’t changed it since the annoying focus stealing bug was fixe d in Mozilla. My wife either uses about:blank or google’s search page, I can’t recall.

  35. I use a static page full of links and forms, with accesskeys for most of the items. It’s convenient to be able to get to Slashdot by starting my browser and pressing Ctrl+S.

    http://www.squarefree.com/start/

  36. iain

    about:blank for me too

  37. Dan

    http://en-GB.start2.mozilla.com/firefox?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official

    Default Firefox start page. I would say 80% of times I open my browser I want to search for something, so this works for me. I would use about:blank and the Search Bar for searching, but then I need to use the mouse or Ctrl+K to get there. The start page automatically focuses the search box :-)

  38. Same for me, about:blank. I don’t need anything to open except of the browser itself, when I open it. Daily changing sites usually have a news-feed anyway, so I use my newsreader to keep track of them.

  39. I use about:blank on all of my personal PCs. At work, when we where allowed to have FF I had it set to open a tab for each application I frequently need at work. Now that we are only allowed to have IE I just have it go to our intranet page.

  40. shivan

    about:blank with 4-5 bookmarks I can access with one-letter-long keyword, its load instantly and I can go easily to any of these pages

  41. about:blank or SessionSaver. I used to use google.com/ig, but the load time is too slow for me (I added a lot of things to it).

    Blank is the best since it doesn’t distract me. Typically i end up starting at gmail since that is where I was last. I have the Better Gmail firefox plugin installed so I can also get to google reader easily too.

    The other thing I will do is crash the browser intentionally if I have a lot of tabs open, some of which I will go back to when I restore the session.

  42. iGoogle takes way too long for me to load as a homepage because I have so much cool /stuff/ on it. I use http://news.bbc.co.uk/ as my homepage and have for years now. It’s one way to make sure I have the slightest clue what’s going on in the world, because I don’t seek out any news sites or other news media. It loads quite quickly for me.

  43. I have been using about:blank since several years.

    Before that, I was using a link to my bookmarks (/home/raphael/.netscape/…/bookmarks.html). If I remember correctly, I started doing that around the time when Netscape 1.0 was released.

  44. Adam Petaccia

    I use my router’s status page as my homepage. I can quickly see how many people are logged on, who’s on wireless etc. Not that it ever matters, but it loads /really/ fast, and is useful once in a while. Looks cool, too.

  45. Custom portal: http://mysterion.org/~danw/

    Back when the web was young, I had one of those “Hi my name and Dan and here is a whole bunch of stuff about me that you don’t care about” homepages. Eventually I started adding things like “My favorite search engine is _Alta Vista_” (I told you this was when the web was young :) so that I’d have that link handy and click-on-able. Then I realized that the links were really useful and the text was crap, so I got rid of all the text. Eventually it evolved into its current form.

    I have to say that the wikipedia random page home page someone else mentioned is pretty brilliant though. :)

  46. Eric

    I like using several tabs as my homepage, ending in about:blank. So I get my bloglines, gmail, and gcal open (which I keep open all the time), followed by about:blank. If I’m looking to go somewhere quick, I just type the URL while the other tabs load in the background.

  47. Kelly

    I normally use google.com/ig, but since I started using Mozilla/SeaMonkey/SuiteRunner nightlies, it’s the standard “you downloaded a new build” page. However, I immediately open one or two sets of bookmarks (webcomics and news+Newsfox feed reader).

  48. I use my .plan file as my browser start page. It has a couple of links to other pages, but it’s mostly my TODO list, constantly reminding me what I should be doing each time I click “Home”.

    Now, if only I kept it up to date!

    One of the links is to my bookmarks file. I use bookmarks a lot. Good against ytpo-squatters. Not so good against old-domain-squatters.

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This is the blog personality of Bryan Clark. I'm a designer in a world of open source. This blog reflects mostly writing about Design, Open Source, Economics, Beer, Wine, and Dogs. There's more information about me on this site or you can contact me directly at clarkbw@gmail.com.

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