IT World: Switching on to Web's Portals of Power
Burnett, Gary, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
THE NEW concept that's causing a lot of excitement on the Web at the moment is that of Web "portals".
Once they were just ordinary Internet search engines with catchy names like Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos. Over the last year, though, the search engine has evolved to a large site offering a laundry list of free services such as e-mail, personalization features, chat rooms, and a variety of content such as stock quotes, local news, and weather. These directories have now become the Internet's "portals" - virtual shopping malls, town centres, and news hubs rolled into one.
Companies desperately trying to compete in this space have caused a mad rush that has resulted in a spate of acquisitions, partnerships, and distribution deals. Companies like Netscape and Microsoft are, of course, right in there, leading the way, but media organisations like Disney, Time-Warner and Viacom all want in on the act. Market share will be everything, delivering in the end the big prize of advertising revenue, the more people you can attract to your portal, the more valuable it is as an advertising billboard.
The goal is to get the user to designate the company's portal site as his own "home page" in his browser. This then becomes the first page he sees upon logging onto the Net and launching his browser. If the portal is doing its job, it will then keep the user there by virtue of its features and accessories. The idea is that once the user gets to this page, he won't want or need to leave. And the longer he stays, the more features he uses and the more he generates in advertising and perhaps e-commerce revenues for his portal site.
Significantly, just this month, browser software company Netscape re- positioned itself as a portal company, outlining its plans to link its e-commerce software business with its Web site by sending some of its seven million daily Netcenter visitors to commerce sites built with Netscape software.
"The enterprise software business and the portal service business are coming together,'' Barksdale said. …