Web portal

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A web portal presents information from diverse sources in a unified way. Apart from the standard search engine feature, web portals offer other services such as e-mail, news, stock prices, information, and entertainment. Portals provide a way for enterprises to provide a consistent look and feel with access control and procedures for multiple applications, which otherwise would have been different entities altogether. An example of a web portal is MSN, Yahoo!, AOL and iGoogle.


[edit] History

In the late 1990s the web portal was a hot commodity. After the proliferation of web browsers in the mid-1990s many companies tried to build or acquire a portal, to have a piece of the Internet market. The web portal gained special attention because it was, for many users, the starting point of their web browser. Netscape became a part of America Online, the Walt Disney Company launched Go.com, and Excite and @Home became a part of AT&T during the late 1990s. Lycos was said to be a good target for other media companies such as CBS.

Many of the portals started initially as either web directories (notably Yahoo!) or search engines (Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, infoseek, Hotbot were among the earliest). Expanding services was a strategy to secure the user-base and lengthen the time a user stayed on the portal. Services which require user registration such as free email, customization features, and chatrooms were considered to enhance repeat use of the portal. Game, chat, email, news, and other services also tend to make users stay longer, thereby increasing the advertising revenue[citation needed].

The portal craze, with "old media" companies racing to outbid each other for Internet properties, died down with the dot-com flameout in 2000 and 2001. Disney pulled the plug on Go.com, Excite went bankrupt and its remains were sold to iWon.com. Some portal sites such as Yahoo! remain successful.

[edit] Kinds of portals

Two broad categorizations of portals are Horizontal portals (e.g. Yahoo) and Vertical portals (or vortals, focused on one functional area, e.g. salesforce.com).

[edit] Personal portals

A personal portal is a site on the World Wide Web that typically provides personalized capabilities to its visitors, providing a pathway to other content. It is designed to use distributed applications, different numbers and types of middleware and hardware to provide services from a number of different sources. In addition, business portals are designed to share collaboration in workplaces. A further business-driven requirement of portals is that the content be able to work on multiple platforms such as personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cell phones/mobile phones.

A personal or web portal can be integrated with many forum systems.

[edit] Regional web portals

Along with the development and success of international personal portals such as Yahoo!, regional variants have also sprung up. Some regional portals contain local information such as weather forecasts, street maps and local business information. Another notable expansion over the past couple of years is the move into formerly unthinkable markets.

"Local content - global reach" portals have emerged not only from countries like Korea (Naver), India (Rediff), China (Sina.com), Romania, Greece (in.gr) and Italy, but in countries like Vietnam where they are very important for learning how to apply e-commerce, e-government, etc. Such portals reach out to the widespread diaspora across the world.

[edit] Government web portals

At the end of the dot-com boom in the 1990s, many governments had already committed to creating portal sites for their citizens. In the United States the main portal is USA.gov in English and GobiernoUSA.gov in Spanish in addition to portals developed for specific audiences such as DisabilityInfo.gov; in the United Kingdom the main portals are Directgov (for citizens) and businesslink.gov.uk (for businesses).

Many U.S. states have their own portals which provide direct access to e-commerce applications, agency and department web sites, and more specific information about living in, doing business in and getting around the state. Some U.S. states have chosen to out-source the operation of their portals to third-party vendors.

The National Portal of India provides comprehensive information about India and its various facets.

One of the issues that come up with government web portals is that different agencies often have their own portals and sometimes a statewide portal-directory structure is not sophisticated and deep enough to meet the needs of multiple agencies...[citation needed]

[edit] Corporate web portals

Corporate intranets became common use during the 1990s. Having access to company information via a web browser ushered in new way of working. As intranets grew in size and complexity, webmasters were faced with increasing content and user management challenges. A consolidated view of company information was judged insufficient, users wanted personalization and customization. Webmasters, if skilled enough, were able to offer some capabilities, but for the most part ended up driving users away from using the intranet.

Many companies began to offer tools to help webmasters manage their data, applications and information more easily, and through personalized views. Some portal solutions today are able to integrate legacy applications, other portals objects, and handle thousands of user requests.

Today’s corporate portals offer extended capabilities for businesses: workflow management, collaboration between work groups, and policy-managed content publication.

In addition, most portal solutions today can allow internal and external access to specific corporate information using secure authentication or Single sign-on.

JSR168 Standards emerged around 2001. Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 standards allow the interoperability of portlets across different portal platforms. These standards allow portal developers, administrators and consumers to integrate standards-based portals and portlets across a variety of vendor solutions.

The concept of content aggregation seems to still gain momentum and portal solution will likely continue to evolve significantly over the next few years. The Gartner Group predicts generation 8 portals to expand on the enterprise mash-up concept of delivering a variety of information, tools, applications and access points through a single mechanism.

With the increase in user generated content, disparate data silos, and file formats, information architects and taxonomist will be required to allow users the ability to tag (classify) the data. This will ultimately cause a ripple effect where users will also be generating ad hoc navigation and information flows.

[edit] Hosted web portals

As corporate portals gained popularity a number of companies began offering them as a hosted service. The hosted portal market fundamentally changed the composition of portals. In many ways they served simply as a tool for publishing information instead of the loftier goals of integrating legacy applications or presenting correlated data from distributed databases. The early hosted portal companies such as Hyperoffice.com or the now defunct InternetPortal.com focused on collaboration and scheduling in addition to the distribution of corporate data. As hosted web portals have risen in popularity their feature set has grown to include hosted databases, document management, email, discussion forums and more. Hosted portals automatically personalize the content generated from their modules to provide a personalized experience to their users. In this regard they have remained true to the original goals of the earlier corporate web portals.

[edit] Domain-specific portals

A number of portals have come about that are specific to the particular domain, offering access to related companies and services, a prime example of this trend would be the growth in property portals that give access to services such as estate agents, removal firm, and solicitors that offer conveyancing.Along the same lines, industry-specific news and information portals have appeared.

[edit] Sports portals

Web portals have also expanded into the professional sports market. Fans of sports teams create a Sportal (sports portal), which brings all information about a professional sports team to one web portal.

[edit] Standards

[edit] Emerging standards

[edit] References

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