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Among other things, a post today by my friend Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 has helped crystallized for me just how inadequate a lot of the terminology is that we’re using for Web services and communities — and not just the obvious kind of cringe-inducing terms like “user-generated content.” In his post, entitled Platforms Are The New Portals, Scott discusses Edgeio and a post that Keith Teare has written about the “de-portalization of the Internet.”

Scott says that “user-centric platforms” such as YouTube and MySpace are acting more like portals, and that Yahoo is an old-school portal because it doesn’t create most of the content it aggregates, and because “it aggregates it by hand, so it’s a closed system and therefore less efficient than the platforms.” In Scott’s view, Yahoo is a portal but YouTube is a platform, in that it allows people to upload things (VC Fred Wilson has written about Yahoo and “de-portalization” here).

But at the same time, he says, “even a platform like YouTube that embraces the distributed nature of the web is still acting like a portal, because YouTube is THE place to upload your videos and THE place to find your videos.” Scott asks why video content owners can’t do what blogs do and publish their content wherever they want, and then with a good search engine “It won’t matter where the video is hosted.”

timeportal.jpg

In conclusion, Scott says: “The challenge for any company that wants to scale in the distributed age is to create a platform that acts as a distributed portal — still a de facto gateway, but one that exists across the web.” This is no slight against Scott, but that sentence made my head hurt. And the more times I read it, the more my head hurt. So you have to be a platform, but one that is a distributed portal; a gateway, but one that exists “across the web.”

The worst part is, I think he’s right. It’s just the language that is making things difficult. What is a “gateway” or a “portal” or a “platform?” If I had to try and imagine something like what Scott is talking about, it would be a new kind of television — one that is hooked up to the Web, and has a powerful search engine, and shows me content not just from the TV networks but from anywhere (like this kind of stuff), using tags and keywords and smart filtering and Digg-style voting and search.

What to call it? A plat-port-way. A way-form-tal. A whatever. I want one.

Update:

Leigh Himel’s friend Peter says the network is the portal.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

15 Responses to “What the heck is a portal anyway?”
  1. [IMG] What the heck is a portal anyway?

  2. find content that is widely dispersed by providing great search. (c) help the publishers in the rising foothills maximize the value of their publications. A few interesting follow-ups from: Scott Karp: Platforms are the new portals Matthew Ingram: What the heck is a portal anyway?

  3. ), using tags and keywords and smart filtering and Digg-style voting and search. What to call it? A plat-port-way. A way-form-tal. A whatever. I want one. Update: Leigh Himel’s friend Peter says the network is the portal. Comments Tag: Content, Portal, Platform, Web 2.0 Add to [IMG] Del.icio.us | [IMG] Digg | [IMG] Yahoo! My Web | [IMG] Furl Bookmark WebProNews: [IMG] [IMG]

  4. I finally took the time to read into the “de-portalization of the Internet” discussion. What I clicked: Buzzword alert: De-portalization De-portalization and Internet revenues Platforms are the new portals What the heck is a portal? What drew me to the discussion is that I had understood the opposite to be happening. My reading led me to understand that with so many individual content creators out there, we’d see a new importance placed on aggregators to gather up the good stuff.

  5. new mass market vehicle emerge to supplant them, or will the audience disintegrate much like the TV universe has splintered in 500+ channels? For more, check out Scott Karp (who’s back in the blogging saddle after being strangely quiet for awhile) and Mathew Ingram.

  6. […] The Poor Prognosis for Portals by Mark Evans on Sun 10 Dec 2006 04:19 PM EST  |  Permanent Link  |  Cosmos Edgeio has one of those blogs posts that forces you to take some time todigest it. It’s a post based on the idea the gap between the giant portals (Yahoo, AOL, et al) and the rest of the world will shrink/has been shrinking – and we’re entering an era of de-portalization (a term coined by Fred Wilson). For bloggers and blog networks, it’s a thought-provoking thesis because it suggests that people will consume information in different ways and go to different places to do it. The question is if it’s not the portals where people are going to get what they want, then will a new mass market vehicle emerge to supplant them, or will the audience disintegrate much like the TV universe has splintered in 500+ channels? For more, check out Scott Karp (who’s back in the blogging saddle after being strangely quiet for awhile) and Mathew Ingram. […]

  7. Now the throw back Star Trek original picture is classic. Good timing to this post. That was one of the best episodes. Edith Keller..

  8. Yeah, I looked for that pic specifically when I heard the term “portal.” Great episode :-) And Edith was played by Joan Collins, wasn’t she? If I remember correctly.

  9. Yes it was Joan Collins… At the end the classic quote by Capt Kirk…”Lets get the hell out of here… ” Now that sums up the portal model

  10. […] Ok maybe the deportalization is not the right word but Matthew Ingram has the best picture.  Portals are dead.  In Web 1.0 it was about stickiness to lock users in and Web 2.0 is about what I call “Opt-in” stickiness.  Basically users expect high velocity content consumption and don’t give a damn about who it is from (the anti portal mindset).  That being said when user recognize a platform that works for them they basically opt in for more.  This is where stickiness matters. […]

  11. […] Well, it’s old ground here in the zlogosphere as I’ve been banging on about content platforms for quite a while, much to the disgruntlement (typical zlogospheric term) of fellow *log network owners and others. Mathew Ingram questions the terms used in this discussion. “The worst part is, I think he’s right. It’s just the language that is making things difficult. What is a ‘gateway’ or a ‘portal’ or a ‘platform?’ ” […]

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