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Portal Power

An Internet portal is a website that provides an added-value entry point or gateway to the Internet. Common added-value services are mechanisms to search the Web (search engines), directories, news, financial information, and links to related websites but the range of services is widening, see below.

Such portals can have a significant influence on the ways in which people access information on the web. Many stick with the first portal they use, often one provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) since it offers convenience and familiarity and may have been set by the ISP as their browser's default home page.

The major Internet portals have formed partnerships with information or content providers. This enables them to provide quick access to information on the main portal page, encouraging users do stick with the portal. This has extended to the provision of other services such as free email, conferencing, and chat forumsproviding a 'one stop, first step' access.

For commercial portals to be viable they need a way of raising revenue. This is most commonly through advertisements placed around the main portal page, often banner advertising at the top of the page and through commission on e-commerce conducted directly via the portal or by users passed to a shopping site by the portal. To maximise ad views, the site must maximise visits and extend the time for which visitors stay on the site. Providing an email service is an effective way for the portal provider to ensuing that users return regularly and often.

Another key feature of the best portals is customisation. The portal allows the user to set parameters and preferences which dictate the actual content on the page. For example, the user can state the sports in which he/she is interested and get sports news specific to those sports only. Another example is the ability to set up a share portfolio so that each time the portal is accessed, the main page gives details of share price/movement for the shares within the user's own portfolio.

Organisational portals

Within an organisation, the technology of the Internet portal can be used on the company Intranet to offer added-value information services. Again, where the content can be customised, the user can get direct access to information of specific relevance or interest.

On such organisational sites, the customisation may be of two types, essentially top-down and bottom-up.

Top-down customisation is customisation according to the job role of the individual. The company determines that specific information should be presented on the customised portal because it is seen as being of specific relevance. For example, in a local authority's portal, councillors would have information presented relevant to the committees and other agencies with which they are involved.

Bottom-up customisation is that determined by the individual according to interest and personal preference. Together, these can provide a first stop on the Web for an individual which is both interesting and useful a good recipe for encouraging regular access.

Carefully selected indexed and searchable content with news (internal and external) and links to other relevant sites (again, internal and external) can form the basis of a relatively simple but effective knowledge management system.

The concept can be extended to an Extranet, allowing customers or suppliers to become part of the tailored portal community.

Business to business portals

The portal concept is now being extended to offer services specific to particular business sectors or activities. For example, Yet2.com is a searchable database of patented technologies designed to help firms exchange patents and other intellectual property. Firms already using the site include 3M, Boeing, Polaroid and Rockwell and the recent European launch has attracted many major European companies to show interest. The site provides them with an opportunity to accelerate the rate at which they can build useful contacts to deliver and exploit new intellectual property.

Thus, portal concepts and technologies can aid in serving the information needs of specific and multiple communities, cementing relationships and building group identities. They can also reduce the time spent in fruitless 'surfing' and make the web an effective tool rather than a time-waster.

March 2000



A particular example of this kind of portal is Alertnet.org created by the Reuters foundation to help emergency relief organisations to co-ordinate their relief activities. It has been established with the help of several generous IT suppliers - and uses content management technology from Mediasurface. This was selected because the system works on very low staffing levels and short learning curves and high productivity were required. Management of the site is performed through a browser so that staff can post material to the site from anywhere in the world. Postings from partner organisations are controlled through workflow processes. Alertnet is now planning to establish a trading exchange to help cut some of the costs involved in relief work and has other ideas to help improve the effectiveness of the site and of the relief effort it supports.

see http://www.alertnet.org/

September 2000



Hotel chain Radisson Edwardian has completed the first phase of a project designed to provide access for employees a wide range of information regardless of their location. The implementation of the portal, based on the Metaframe XPe portal software from Citrix, provides all employees with generic information, as well as personalised data and applications specific to their role within the company. This includes access to legacy applications via a web interface so that Radisson could continue to use some of the older, still-standard within the industry, software.

May 2002



Nine freight forwarders have agreed to use Cargo Portal Services, the new air cargo online booking and tracking service scheduled for public launch in January, 2003. The forwarders are BAX Global, EGL Inc., Emery Forwarding, GeoLogistics, Lynden Air Freight, Kintetsu and National Air Cargo. In addition, two other leading forwarders that at present are remaining anonymous also plan to use the Internet-based system, according to Unisys Corp., which is developing the portal in conjunction with United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Air Canada Cargo.

This commitment from the forwarders follows demonstrations of the system in October, 2002.

Forwarders are not charged to use the service. Instead, participating carriers will pay a fee for each transaction. Emery's rollout strategy is to start using CPS at its North American gateways, and expand one office at a time.

CPS operates on any personal computer that can support a major browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

Unisys said it is in discussions with many other carriers who are interested in joining this carrier-neutral service but declined to identify them.

November 2002



See also the Topic: b2b exchanges

See also the Topic: Portal Software

See also the Topic: Voice Portals

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