An internet portal is a website that provides information from several sources, acting like a search engine for its content, but also providing its users with email services, news information, stock prices, entertainment options and various other data sources.
Starting with the year 1990, when a multitude of web browsers appeared, a lot of companies tried to create web portals, in order to benefit from the fantastic growth of the internet. Thus some of the portals became part of different web browsers.
Web portals are usually classified in horizontal and vertical portals. The horizontal portal is a kind of a platform for companies that activate in the same sector, while the vertical portal represents the entry point to a certain interest, to a certain industry segment. Some of the vertical portals offer news, digital magazines, e-commerce, etc, to give you an example.
There are also personal portals, which often provide a path of access to different kinds of content. These portals use distributed applications, hardware or middleware that provide services from different sources. Such a portal would be specialized in offering news, information of all sorts, updates, and so on, and it can be dedicated to any possible topic.
Then there are the news portals providing users with all sorts of fresh information and news. The government web portals appeared also in the 1990s, as the authorities have started to provide valuable information to the citizens they served.
Another specific type of portals is the cultural one, which provides virtual access to galleries, libraries and museums. This means that the visitors may have access to photos, journals, magazines, books, newspapers, music, films, diaries, letters and all sorts of similar materials.
The corporate web portals (intranets) became very popular in the last decades; at the same time, the stock portals were born, in order to help the stock holders find out more about the dynamic of the stock market in real time.
The industry specific portals are dedicated to a certain domain, and they provide access to services like real estate agents, solicitors, various firms etc.
But what does a portal actually do? First of all, a portal enables universal login, has the ability to process structured and unstructured data, and helps people communicate through messages.
Usually a portal is more than a website, an intranet or extranet; also, it is not just a search engine. With the help of a portal, internet users can search the net or simply navigate the portal pages. Most portals offer help with task management, notifications, collaboration and groupware.
Let’s consider a real-life example: MySpace was once one of the most popular social networks, and is still used by many people even today. Visitors can create a page that has its own look, and a special accent can be put on music and entertainment.
Baidu is used by the majority of the Chinese people. It’s not just a regular search engine, having specific features that link it to multimedia, movies and MP3’s. It was the first portal of this kind in China.
Who has not heard about Wikipedia until now? This is a great online encyclopedia, a source that allows anyone to access a lot of information about all sorts of subjects. With Wikipedia you can quickly learn about countries, their history, maps or spices that are used in the entire world, just to name some of the areas of knowledge where it can prove to be helpful. In fact, Wikipedia has definitely changed for the better the way that people get information on the web.
Blogger is, as its name tells us clearly, dedicated to blogs. In fact, this is the most popular blog platform. Using Blogger, people can rapidly start their own blog and install Google ads on it in order to gain some money.
Windows Live is the way Microsoft tried to face the offensive of Google. Facebook is another huge portal, being the most popular destination on the web and the most important social network.
Several applications and all kinds of games have been recently added to Facebook, proving once again that it is a live platform, which has the potential to continue to surprise us in the future as well.
YouTube is known as the place where people go to enjoy viral videos. People visit YouTube to upload their own movies, and also enjoy watching all sorts of shorter or longer videos. Free video tutorials can be also found on this portal.
Yahoo is considered to be the second most important web portal in the world, being very busy, very well known and offering a multitude of information, news, databases, email services and so on. This portal has been constructed in 1994, when two students at Stanford began to gather their preferred websites in a personal database.
Live.net is considered to be the third internet portal; it is owned by Microsoft and offers email services, pages that can be personalized and social networking. Microsoft has also launched its own search engine called Bing, which offers several advanced search options.
Needless to say, the first position is taken by Google, a web portal that is the most popular on the net, used by millions of people every minute of every day. This portal has become synonym with the searches on the internet. It has initially started as a search engine, but nowadays it has evolved into something much more complex. For example, it offers its users the option to have personalized pages.
About.com is the place people where people go in order to find help. It is made of about 700 niche web sites, and each one of them provides help on any topics you may think about.
AOL is the place where people looking for news, shopping, communities, usually go. The interesting thing is that this platform manages to connect all users with the same on screen interface and browser.
Many internet analysts and researchers have started to think about the future of the internet portals. How will they evolve, what will the future bring to them and what will they provide to the internet users in the years to come? As a result of their effort, a common vision has emerged: all portals that want to survive will have to support (and actually encourage) mobile computing and wireless devices.