The project originally began in April of 2006 with a beta launch. For the past year they were testing the customizable front page and RSS reader against pools of users to figure out what level of functionality best fit their customers. The offering released today is light compared to competing services but it does embrace Web 2.0 features. MyTimes allows editors to make content recommendations and readers can indulge with widgets (mini-feature applications) like Flickr photos, bookmarks, and weather data to add additional functionality. Multiple pages, organized by content or otherwise, are also possible.
None of the features MyTimes is offering are new, or in any way groundbreaking. Most have been widely available to the more web-savvy of readers from sites like Netvibes or Pageflakes, or even Yahoo’s personalization service for quite some time.
The strength for the Times is their audience. Despite sagging readership at traditional newspapers, the Times remains the most visited newspaper website in the U.S. with an audience of more than 10m unique users a month ( 14.2m in July/ Nielsen-Net Ratings).
Finally adding these kinds of personalization features will give these readers an option to expand their usage rather than forcing them to go elsewhere.
Personally, I am a fan of Netviibes. I like their simple interface. I use their service to aggregate news and RSS feeds. For me, it serves as a conduit to filter and review the thousands of headlines I review every week. The offering from the Times doesn’t provide as advanced, or customizable, an assortment of features so it won’t draw my use but it is a step in the right direction.