Powers, Perplexities of Portals Persist

By Eric Lundquist  |  Posted 2001-12-03 Print this article Print

I'm not sure when "portal" became attached to Internet activities, but I think it was in early Yahoo days when the idea was floated that Yahoo would provide you with a personal entrance into the Web.

Portals are a great product saddled with a tired name. Im not sure when "portal" became attached to Internet activities, but I think it was in early Yahoo days when the idea was floated that Yahoo would provide you with a personal entrance into the Web. While Yahoo still has not figured out how to make any money being a personal portal for millions of Net surfers, the idea of a Web-based IS continues to blossom.

One of the better and more recent examples was the development of the Army Knowledge Online portal. This system, developed using technology from Art Technology Group, of Cambridge, Mass., is designed to give the 1.2 million Army and civilian personnel a way to find the information they need to get their jobs done. The project meshes access, security and the ability to build personal views into—you guessed it—a portal to help the Army do its job. It would be difficult to think of an organization that is more critical and also more bureaucratic that stands to benefit from the portal technology.

The discussion with ATG was a reminder to me of how technology tends to take longer to penetrate a society than anyone expects but also tends to have a far greater impact than anyone predicted. Portals were all the rage as terms like "push technology" were dying out. Suddenly, having the word "portal" attached to a business plan assured you of instant funding and digital glitterati status. And just as quickly, the word "portal" consigned you to the dot-com washout category.

In the meantime, companies that avoided fads and decided to use technology to accomplish their business goals have found portals a really useful tool. Employees wanting to know the status of their benefits, vendors wanting to know the status of their supplies and inventory, customers wanting to know the status of their orders—all these are great examples of needs that are best answered through portals, which give you exactly the information you need in the format you want. And Internet technologies provide the best ways to build these systems. When asked what will revive technology spending, I answer security, which is obvious to anyone, and application development. But instead of traditional application development building new systems, development will be based on tying together what you already have and extending it to your suppliers and customers. A portal is a good answer to many development questions.

A print publication such as eWeek is essentially a paper-based portal into the industry it covers. This week includes our first Interactive Week section, which incorporates the IT content from former sister publication Interactive Week. This first section looks at some new directions for broadband wireless, and well be looking at some other technology directions over the upcoming weeks. Our goal is to be your personal radar system for technologies that will soon impact your companies. Id guess you can call it a combination of portal and radar. Ill leave it to you to come up with the name.

Whats on your mind? Let me know at eric_lundquist@ziffdavis.com.

Since 1996, Eric Lundquist has been Editor in Chief of eWEEK, which includes domestic, international and online editions. As eWEEK's EIC, Lundquist oversees a staff of nearly 40 editors, reporters and Labs analysts covering product, services and companies in the high-technology community. He is a frequent speaker at industry gatherings and user events and sits on numerous advisory boards. Eric writes the popular weekly column, 'Up Front,' and he is a confidant of eWEEK's Spencer F. Katt gossip columnist.

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