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A web portal is a web site that provides a starting point, a gateway, or portal, to other resources on the Internet or an intranet. Intranet portals are also known as "enterprise information portals" (EIP).
Portals typically provide personalized capabilities to their users. They are designed to use distributed applications, different numbers and types of middleware, and hardware to provide services from a number of different sources. In addition, business portals are designed to share collaboration in workplaces. A further business-driven requirement of portals is that the content be able to work on multiple platforms such as personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cell phones.
The Open Directory Project requires that sites listed as a "portal" contain these features:
- Search Engine/Directory
- Groupware and Collaboration
- Knowledge Management
- Content Management
- Work Flow
- Multi Channel Facilities
- Single Sign On
- Business Intelligence and Integration of Applications
- Identity Management Integration
- Infrastructure Functionality
Structure of portals
The building blocks of portals are portlets, which are held in containers, which in turn is contained by the portal page.
Development of web portals
In the late 1990s, the web portal was a hot commodity. After the rapid diffusion of web browsers in the mid-1990s, many companies tried to build or acquire a portal, to have a piece of Internet market. Web portal gained a special attention because it was, for many users, the starting point of their web browser. Netscape Netcenter became a part of America Online, the Walt Disney Company launched Go.com , and Excite became a part of AT&T during the late 1990s. Lycos was said to be a good target for other media companies such as CBS.
Many of the portals started initially as either Internet directories (notably Yahoo!) and/or search engines (Excite, Lycos, Altavista, infoseek, and Hotbot among the old ones). The expansion of service provision occurred as a strategy to secure the user-base and lengthen the time a user stays on the portal. Services which require user registrations such as free email, customization features, chatrooms were considered to enhance repeat use of the portal. Game, chat, email, news, and other services also tend to make users' stay longer, thereby increase the advertisement revenue.
Regional web portals
Along with the development and success of International web portals such as Yahoo!, regional variants have also sprung up which include Yahoo! (UK, Canada, Germany), Canadian Content and Fireball.de among others. Regional portals are also known to contain local information like weather, street maps, local business and more. Another notable expansion over the past couple of years is the move into formerly unthinkable markets such as Communist China.
Enterprise web portals
In the early 2000s, a major industry shift in web portal focus has been the corporate intranet portal, or "enterprise web". Where expecting millions of unaffiliated users to return to a public web portal has been something of a mediocre financial success, using a private web portal to unite the web communications and thinking inside a large corporation has begun to be seen by many as both a labor-saving and a money-saving technology. Some corporate analysts have predicted that corporate intranet web portal spending will be one of the top five areas for growth in the Internet technologies sector during the first decade of the 21st century.
Some features of enterprise portals are:
- Single touch point - the portal becomes the delivery mechanism for all business information services.
- Collaboration - portal members can communicate synchronously (through chat, or messaging) or asynchronously through threaded discussion and email digests (forums) and blogs.
- Content and document management - services that support the full life cycle of document creation and provides mechanisms for authoring, approval, version control, scheduled publishing, indexing and searching.
- Personalization - the ability for portal members to subscribe to specific types of content and services. Users can customize the look and feel of their environment.
- Integration - the connection of functions and data from multiple systems into new components/portlets.
Most enterprise portals provide single sign-on capabilities to their users. This requires a user to authenticate only once. Access control lists manages the mapping between portal content and services onto the portal user base.
Enterprise portals may be referred to by the community they serve. For instance, an employee-facing portal may be described as a "Business-to-employee" portal, or B2E portal. Other enterprise portal classifications are "B2C" (business-to-customer/consumer), "B2D" (business-to-dealer/distributor), "B2B" (business-to-business/supplier), and "B2G" (business-to-government). Enterprises may develop multiple "B2x" portals based on business structure and strategic focus, but leverage a common architectural framework, reusable component libraries, and standardized project methodologies.
Open source projects
The following companies provide web portal software:
- Plumtree Software
- Sybase Enterprise Portal
- Collective Intelligence
- SunGard SCT
See also: About.com
Enterprise web portals are still in their infancy and standards are in the early stages of definition. For more concise details about the basics of a portal and its architecture visit the link : http://www.sapdesignguild.org/editions/edition3/portal_definition.asp#navigation
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