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Lesson 11 What are portals
Objective Describe portals

What are Portals?

Where do you want to go today? This is a question asked by the marketing team at Microsoft, by taxi drivers, and by portals. Portals provide an entry point to the Internet or in the case of e-Commerce sites, portals are doorways to the virtual storefront.
Portals provide a common starting point for customers entering an ecommerce site. For example, a person logging on to the Dell Computers homepage sees a portal. From this point on, two users of this site are not likely to see the same thing. One user may be interested in purchasing a home computer, while a small business owner may be interested in purchasing a group of workstations. At this point, the individual consumer may choose to click the laptop link, while the small business user explores Dell Desktop Systems in the $800 price range.
Note: The important point here is that portals provide e-shoppers with a doorway to enter. After entering the doorway, no two shopper's experiences may be the same.
The mercycorps.org website is a wonderful example of how a large body of information can be organized for the end user. Users enter the NetAid site, and based on their personal needs, (i.e., provide a donation, read about world hunger, view archive of concert) link off to their desired Web page.

Origin of Portals

When it comes to obtaining a somewhat detailed understanding about a concept or a theory, trying to put together a descriptive taxonomy[1] from the perspective of its evolution can be extremely helpful. This is especially true in the case of portals, because there is so much hype surrounding the concept nowadays. But there is indeed much substance beneath the hype! Since the early days of the Internet, there have been major shifts in technology, providing users with the means to access on-line information and forms of on-line services over the Web, be it the Internet, intranet, or extranet. This has resulted in a mismatch between the availability of information, and the efficiency and effectiveness of information searching. The primary driving force behind portals was, and to a certain degree continues to be, the goal of eliminating this mismatch by improving search efficiency (for example, reducing the time it takes for an inquirer to locate relevant information about a specific subject, be it through a single Web site or through a network of distributed, heterogeneous information sources).

In general, a portal application (a portal, for short) is a single, Web-based interface into the world of heterogeneous and incompatible information sources distributed across the network. Portals originated from "search engines", sites that helped Web users locate relevant information on the Internet. In the early days of the Web, searching for information was a highly unproductive process, because users were required to navigate raw associative links between information sources using a complex command language. It soon became evident that navigating raw links to find even simple information, such as weather, travels, sports was totally unacceptable.
As a result, new types of sites, termed "navigation sites", started to appear. In order to address user frustration and reduce the average “seek time” to find relevant information, these new sites provided the function of content categorization by prefiltering popular sites (and the documents they contain) into preconfigured categories according to content (for example, sports, news, and finance). As soon as navigation sites came up with reasonably attractive groups of content, these sites became, and continue to be, the starting points for many regular Web users. This was the commencement moment for portals.
Although the dictionary definition of portal[2] is quite simple, it has multiple meanings. The first meaning of the term portal is the following: A portal is an originating web site with search engine capabilities. Portals that began as search engines (Yahoo!) have quickly evolved into central information location points for navigating the Internet, for gathering relevant information, and, most recently, for collaborative community activities. This was the moment in their evolution when portals became known as "Internet portals" or simply "Web portals".
[1]taxonomy:1) , a philosophical interpretation, 2) the classification of something, especially organisms.
[2]Portal: A portal is an opening that objects must pass through on their way to someplace else.