Portals Make Dialog 'Of the Web'

By O'Leary, Mick | Information Today, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Portals Make Dialog 'Of the Web'


O'Leary, Mick, Information Today


Like most of us, the traditional online services were caught off guard by the astonishing rise of the Web. They, however, have more to lose by procrastinating. The Web is an opportunity for everyone, but as an alternative means of information distribution, it is also a direct threat to the traditionals. The major traditional online services have responded by developing their own Web versions, and their strategies in doing so have varied. Some have been quite creative while others have been, well, traditional.

Dow Jones is an example of the first type. Its Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition is an attractive, abridged version of the main service for consumers and other noncorporate users, and it has become one of the most popular fee-based services on the Web. The company's full-size enterprise product, the old News/Retrieval, was completely revamped into Dow Jones Interactive. The company has created its own directory of business-oriented Web sites, and is a business news provider to other sites.

Dialog's Web strategy has been more conventional. Its full-size Web product, DialogWeb, is a Web-based interface for information professionals. DialogSelect is an end-user interface to Dialog's most popular databases, using topic-oriented menus for database selection and customized, formatted screens for query building.

'On' and 'Of' the Web

The difference between the two companies' strategies is that Dow Jones is "of the Web," while Dialog has just been "on the Web." This is not just a difference in prepositions, but actually represents two disparate approaches to the Web. "On the Web" means transferring the fundamental characteristics of your traditional, proprietary service to the Web. In the case of Dialog (and others), this means subscription pricing, lack of integration with the rest of the Web, and a professional-oriented interface. DialogSelect provides an effective end-user interface, but is otherwise a traditional search service with a new Web interface.

Dow Jones, on the other hand, is "of the Web." With the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, Dow Jones developed a Web-- style end-user service, from data selection to format and search techniques to rockbottom pricing. Dow Jones Interactive, with its pay-per-view pricing and its extensive Web links, feels like it is part of the Web, even though it is a large proprietary service. Finally, DowJones.com is a pure Web service, with personalization features, extensive external linking, and an intuitive "Web-like" interface, and with no charges. (For a review, see page 24 of the October 1999 issue of Information Today.)

What is the importance of all this? It is that, in seeking information, people turn to what is familiar. And for most end users/ knowledge workers, the characteristics of the Web are more comfortable and appealing than those of closed proprietary services. The proprietary services still have only a small market share of the total electronic information market, now that approximately 100 million Americans are on the Web. Most of these users have defined their expectations in terms of the Web, and when looking at something new they want a low learning curve.

Dialog Becomes 'Of

Dialog is finally becoming "of the Web" with its new Dialog Portals. The Portals have a complete set of Web portal features: portal took and feel, pay-per-view pricing, personalization, etc. They are partnered with one of the most recognizable brands on the Web by using Netscape Netcenter as their portal interface. There are three separate Dialog Portal products: for Business, Science, and Technology. These-and the last two in particular-provide major research databases that have never before been available in end-user, pay-per-view, Web-portal fashion. The portals themselves are attractive and intuitive, but Dialog still has a few things yet to do for them to be completely "of the Web."

The actual content for the Dialog Portals is a version of DialogSelect. …

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