New name for our paid plan

When we introduced our Premium subscription July last year, we did not give much attention to the naming of our premium subscription. We figured Premium would be fine. The main reason we introduced the paid plan was because users were asking us for it.  A year and a half later, the Premium subscription has become an important part of start.me. That’s why we decided to give its name some more thought.

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Cookie bar

European Union (EU) law is rather strict when it comes to privacy. The union requires website owners to show a so called ‘cookie bar’ to all EU citizens, warning them about the use of cookies. We believe transparency is a good thing and were always open about our use of cookies (cf. our Privacy Policy). To comply with EU law we had to add as so called ‘cookie bar’ to formally announce the use of cookies, giving visitors a chance to opt out.

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Happy World Hello day!

Today is the 44th annual World Hello Day. This day celebrates the power of communication to resolve conflicts. We would like to celebrate this day with you. That’s why we have a little bonus for you. Say Hello! to 10 of your friends, and we will award you with a free 1 year start.me Premium upgrade.

So go ahead, say Hello! to 10 of your friends and enjoy one year of extra fast, advertisement free, Premium-widget packed start.me fun!

Say ‘Hello!’

Easier bookmark adding and discovery

For most users, the main purpose of start.me is to store bookmarks. That’s why we find it important to make adding and managing bookmarks as easy as possible. We already offer a browser extension to add bookmarks directly from your browser. Today’s update enhances bookmark adding from within start.me and helps you discover interesting new sites.

The bookmark-adder

BGB

You have probably used the big green button (BGB) in start.me’s header bar. It is the quickest way to add a bookmark. Until today, this only allowed you to add multiple URLs at once. Even though that is often quite handy, this approach would not let you enter a custom title or description.

That’s why we added a ‘Single URL’ mode, that allows you to add a new bookmark, directly specifying its title and description. Adding multiple bookmarks at once is still possible. We added a button that allows you to switch between single and multiple URL modes.

It’s so simple, you may wonder what took us so long to invent it. Well, there is a good reason for that, actually…

Browsing suggested sites

On the above screenshot you may have noticed the second tab in the Bookmark adder: “Suggestions”. This new tab houses a really exciting new feature that allows you to quickly add well known sites and… discover some more!

Our team or content curators has silently worked on building a huge collection of sites, cataloging and indexing them. This collection is instantly available to you through the suggestions tab.

You can choose to browse the list of suggestions, filtering based on your interests or the country you are interested in. Or you can actively search the database by entering one of more keywords, like ‘sport’ or ‘cloud’. The filters help you narrow down the results.

Adding sites you like is simple: just select them and click Add. The sites will appear as new bookmarks in the widget you selected.

Did you know?

To quickly add bookmarks to a specific widget, you can just use its widget menu and select ‘Add bookmark’. Also, the bookmark adder will remember to which widget you last added a bookmark and automatically suggest that widget next time.

Organize your widgets

Currently, start.me houses about 750.000 pages containing about 6 million widgets in total. That means pages on average contain about 8 widgets. Chances are, those widgets need to be reorganized every once in a while. We have supported dragging and dropping of widgets from the start. Today, we made the whole process a little easier still. We introduced a new ‘organize widgets’ mode, that can be activated through a page’s edit menu (see below) or by starting to drag a widget.

Organize widgets mode

In this new ‘organize widgets’ mode, all widgets on the page are showed minimized, giving a good overview. You can drag widgets to new positions and delete them if you want. When you are done organizing the page, just closing the blue notification bar brings you back to the regular layout.

Square and simple

You may have noticed another change, recently: the rounded corners that were visible on widgets, buttons and other parts of the start.me user interface have been removed. Everything is square and simple now. We hope you like this minor change. It is but the first step of a set of new customization features to come soon!

 

Interview with Accenture

Last week, Accenture interviewed us about winning the 6th round of the Innovation Awards. The resulting article was published today and might be worth a read! Unfortunately, the article was written in Dutch. Below is an excerpt from the interview, translated to English. For the full text, you could try your luck with the machine translation by Google.

Q: Michiel de Wit, congratulations! With 1,195 votes you are winner of the 6th round of the Audience Award. Not a surprise, given your exciting social media giveaway, right?

A: Well, actually it was! Only a fraction of the people who voted for us, have actually signed up for the raffle. We have set up a giveaway as a kind of compensation, which meant that our voters could win a free month of start.me Premium. We noticed that the majority did not sign up for the giveaway and needed no incentive to vote for us. Someone even said: ” I normally never do this kind of things, but for you I will.” So heartwarming if someone is genuinely happy with your product!

start.me won the 6th round of the AIA16

As you may have heard, start.me has been nominated for the Accenture Innovation Awards 2016. We received a lot of positive feed back and more than 1,200 start.me users took the trouble of voting for us. And with great result: we won the 6th round! This means we will be participating in the finals in October. Thank you very much to everyone who voted (or tried to)! This literally wouldn’t have been possible without you!

Wonderful comments

We would like to share some of the heartwarming comments we received from users who voted:

I never do this stuff, but you guys are great – the site is great – and I think that’s why so many of us have voted!

Just made us smile. And this one, too:

I was with the old iGoogle for many years, then with igHome. Just switched to you and love it: I tell my friends about it!

And one more, just because it made us happy:

Has been taken care of 🙂 I also promote your site regularly on Facebook, because I really enjoy it myself and so I want to share it with others!

Winners

5 start.me users have won a free year of start.me Premium. The winners have received an email to confirm their Premium subscription and a second one to congratulate them. For those of you who would like to get Premium for free, too: just invite your friends. For every friend who starts to use start.me, we will award you with a month Premium for free. Just drop us an email to claim the reward!

Faster pages, HTTP/2 and some more

We have been posting about our efforts to improve the overall speed of start.me before. That’s because we think speed is a very important characteristic of a service you use every day. Today an update on our progress, with some exciting improvements! Furthermore, we added some features and tweaked the look and feel of start.me a little. You will read all about it further down.

Faster bookmarks

Faster bookmark widgets

Of the more than 5 million widgets on start.me, 55% is a bookmark widget. It is fair to say that lists with bookmarks are by far the most commonly used feature. That’s why we worked hard to make those bookmark lists as fast as we could. We went through the code and optimized it quite a bit. The result is that pages with a lot of bookmark widgets should render almost twice as fast! The improvement should be noticeably for everyone, in particular for those of you who use start.me on a smartphone or tablet.

Caching and CloudFlare

To further improve the loading speed of start.me, we added caching. Pages you often visit are stored locally, so that loading will be quicker. You may notice a short loading animation at pages you haven’t visited for a while.

The new loader. You like it?

We started routing all traffic through CloudFlare, which should improve loading performance as well, especially outside of the United States. CloudFlare provides optimizations and caching and at the same time adds some protection against online threats, improving overall security quite a bit.

HTTP/2

With the move to CloudFlare, start.me also gained support for the new HTTP/2 protocol. To many this long-awaited successor to HTTP/1.1 may be all Greek. Originally an ‘invention’ by Google called SPDY (“Speedy”), the new web standard improves loading speed of pages considerably, by using the Internet connection more efficiently. The benefits should be most notable for those with slower Internet connections.

UI Tweaks

After the introduction of our new logo, we made some minor adjustments to the design of start.me to reflect the new colors. You may notice drop down menus now look a little more sophisticated and some shades of blue have changed. Furthermore, the way pages scroll has changed a little: the scrollbar now starts below the top header. And we changed the icon for the page dropdown menu, to make it clearer it can be used to edit the current page.

Some of the UI changes we made

Search box on mobile devices

It took us a while, but finally we can now offer a search box on mobile devices. Because of the smaller screen sizes of smartphones and some tablets, we were not able to fit the (Google) search box in the header of mobile devices. We finally solved this issue my moving the search box below the header, so that on mobile devices too you can easily Google away!

Search box now is available on mobile devices, too

Multi-line bookmark icon titles

The Bookmarks widget received a new setting. When the widget has been switched to the Icon view, you can now choose how much of the bookmark titles is shown. Previously, on the first line would be shown. The new setting, found on the Advanced settings tab of the widget, allows you two show two lines or even the complete title.

Single line vs. Multi line bookmark titles

Speed improvements, upgrades and more behind the scenes stuff

It has been quite a while since you last heard from us. But we have been very busy, we can assure you. It’s just that most of the work we have been doing is quite invisible. Chances are, however, you noticed that start.me is a lot faster. Oh, and you may have ran into some annoying errors recently. Sorry about that. So what have we been doing?

Improving overall speed of start.me

We are constantly trying to improve start.me. Sometimes, we add some nice features. Those are generally quick to do and have a nice and visible result. More difficult it is, however, to improve overall speed. That takes a lot of coffee and effort to do and results are usually not all that visible. Last month, we really dug in and made things go a lot faster!

To make a long story short: as the chart below shows, we managed to reduce the average time it takes to render a start.me page from 400 ms down to 150 ms. That’s a reduction of over 60% and something you will surely notice, especially on devices with less powerful hardware. You should be able to notice that your pages display faster and you get access to your bookmarks a lot sooner!

Upgrading server software

As you may or may not know, start.me runs on Ruby on Rails (RoR) server software. RoR is a fantastic framework and we are proud to be able to use it for start.me. However, we had some overdue upgrades. Last week, we took care of upgrading our RoR-setup to the newest version available. And those upgrades, just like about any upgrade, introduced some nice new features, but broke some others, too.

Last week, after deploying the upgrade, we got quite a lot of mails from worried users. They were experiencing problems signing in. The report we received most often was about continuously having to sign in or not being able to sign in at all. With the help of some dedicated users, we found out what was causing the problems. We filed appropriate bug reports and worked around the issues as good as we could. Things should be working all fine again. And you actually may notice a speed improvement from this upgrade!

Removing cookies helps!

For those of you that are still being plagued with sign-in issues: it is worth clearing your browser cache and cookies. Some browsers need this to be able to operate properly again with our newer software. Instructions for clearing your cache can be found here for FirefoxChromeEdgeInternet Explorer and Opera.

Anonymous account recovery

Quite some users of start.me have an anonymous account. That means they never signed up. The anonymous account is associated with the browser through a cookie. That means that the account will be lost when cookies are (accidentally) cleared. For those of you that fear that might happen one day: we introduced a recovery option.

On their Account page, anonymous users will now find a recovery section. It contains a URL that anonymous  users can bookmark or write down somewhere. Through that URL, their account can always be accessed, even after cookies have been removed. To be able to transfer anonymous accounts to other devices as well, the recovery section also contains a QR-code. Scanning that with a mobile device will automatically associate the anonymous account with the device.

Feedback much appreciated

As you can see, we have been working quite hard to make things better. We hope you appreciate the speed improvements. Please let us know when you still experience problems. And if you like to support our efforts: consider going Premium! We still have a limited-time Premium for life offer available!