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Freewebs' Pagii.com: The return of the personal home page?

The Web page building company forays into social networking with a new site that allows you to create an ultra-customized profile.

Remember when you were in junior high and the ultimate way to express yourself was to line the walls of your locker with photos and notes from friends and magazine clippings of every variety? Well, here's the digital-age version. Web page creation veteran Freewebs (more coverage here) has just launched a new site, Pagii (rhymes with "cagey"), which it's calling a "social publishing network." It's a drag-and-drop service that allows you to put photos, text, shapes, videos, and external widgets into a free-form, JavaScript-based page. The end result is something that's essentially a cross between a social networking profile and a standalone Web site. Or, as I like to call it, a locker wall 2.0.

Some Pagii profiles look like fairly standard social networking pages. Pagii

History lesson for those who came in late: Way, way, way back in the prehistoric days when "social media" meant watching the news at a bar in the company of Guinness-guzzling patrons, it was kind of trendy to have your own Web page--remember Geocities and Angelfire? That stuff tended to actually require (gasp!) a smattering of HTML expertise, and the popularity of the personal Web page gradually waned with the rise of early social networking and blogging entrants like LiveJournal and Friendster. Pagii seems like it's an attempt to revive those days when expressing yourself on the Web was something more customizable than filling out fields to say that you're 5'9", like listening to Arcade Fire, and are interested in "whatever I can get." But since the caveman age of 1999, there have obviously been major developments in user interfaces as well as social networking capabilities. So, not only are Pagii sites relatively easy to throw together and tweak into something rather functional, it's also possible to amass a friends list, interact with other peoples' profiles, and even collaborate with fellow members on a single page.

Another Pagii user has co-opted the service as a sort of art platform. Pagii

On the positive side, there's some cool stuff you can do with Pagii, especially if you ever wished your Facebook profile were more malleable. There are a number of third-party content launch partners (Miniclip, Pyzam, and the ubiquitous Slide) with promises of more to come. Plus, if you spend a decent amount of time fixing up and customizing your site, you can come up with something rather aesthetically pleasing.

On the negative side, Pagii is a memory hog; it slowed down my Firefox browser on a fairly normal home Internet connection. Additionally, while it's possible to make a Pagii profile look quite pretty, it's also possible to overdose on blingy glitter text and animated shapes in a way that could make the average visitor cringe. Then again, you can do that with just about any social networking site--even the once-minimalist Facebook --these days.

And, finally, social networking is reaching a serious saturation point (if it's not there yet) with recent entrants like Yahoo Mash (coverage here) and Viacom's Flux (coverage here). The saving grace for Pagii could be that Web users--particularly the self-expression junkies who have turned MySpace pages into personal art installations--might be drawn to the fact that you can play around with it without actually needing to use the social features. Nevertheless, we just might not need another way to put your party photos and life aspirations on the Web at this point.