Portals are not dead. Portals can never be dead. If you think portals are dead you have no imagination, nor do you grasp the meaning of the word:
- 1. A doorway, entrance, or gate, especially one that is large and imposing.
2. An entrance or a means of entrance: the local library, a portal of knowledge.
3. The portal vein.
4. A website considered as an entry point to other websites, often by being or providing access to a search engine.
Let's look at the stats on traditional portals. Portals are dead, right? Nope. Not exactly. They get more visits than there are US Internet users - each month. You do the math (the math looks something like this: number of unique visitors per month per portal divided by amount of US Internet users = wtf?) It's completely mind-boggling how successful traditional portals are in spite of themselves.
Now let's look at the stats for what I call "new portals": Facebook and Twitter. Nevermind, let's not. We all know they're getting tons of uniques - both new and returning - each day, and becoming a central part of people's lives, not just when they're home but when they're out and about. How do Facebook and Twitter not fit the dictionary definition of a "portal"?
- Do both work as "An entrance or a means of entrance:...a portal of knowledge"? Check.
- Do both work as a "portal vein"? (OK...use your imagination here a little.) Check.
- Are both used as "an entry point to other websites, often by being or providing access to a search engine"? Check.
What's lacking here to make a good portal out of both? Perhaps a little finesse. Outside of that, nothing. Let's move on to Wikipedia's definition of a "portal":
- A web portal presents information from diverse sources in a unified way.[...]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.[...]
How do Facebook and Twitter not fit Wikipedia's definition of a "portal"?
- Do both "...present information from diverse sources in a unified way"? For Twitter, "Yes" - to a great extent. Facebook, a weak "Yes", as in "Yes, but not so much". Overall: Check.
- Do both "offer other services such as e-mail, news, stock prices, information, and entertainment"? Both services have already replaced or at least greatly reduced the need to use email for millions of people. All the other doo-dads mentioned are available, but unification is weak at Twitter and so-so at Facebook (debatable). Overall: Ongoing/Possible.
- Do both allow "enterprises to provide a consistent look and feel"? Yes, and not exactly (debatable). However, the new portal is not about The Enterprise (this phrase reminds me of Star Trek): It's about YOU. Overall: A weak Check.
New portals will work as gathering places where we share our personal lives as well as exchange links to the hottest news and downloads, and point each other to tons of off-the-wall, funny and obscure things as well. In short, portals are not dead. They are transforming.
Disclosure: As of this writing I've never used Facebook except with fake names for exploration purposes, and I only use Twitter under my pen-name to promote my other LJ (see sidebar for link).