Re-imagining the Web portal

Published in Telecom Asia, Mar 16, 2012 – Re-imagining the web portal

Web portals had their heyday in the early 1990’s. Remember Lycos, Alta-vista, Yahoo, and Excite – portals which had neatly partitioned the web into compartments for e.g. Autos, Beauty, Health, and Games etc. Enter Google. It had a webpage with a single search bar. With a single stroke Google pushed all the portals to virtual oblivion.

It became obvious to the user that all information was just a “search away”. There was no longer the need for neat categorization of all the information on the web. There was no need to work your way through links only to find your information at the “bottom of the heap”. The user was content to search their way to needed information.

That was then in the mid 1990s. But much has changed since then. Many pages have been uploaded into the trillion servers that make up the internet. There is so much more information in the worldwide web.  News articles, wikis, blogs, tweets, webinars, podcasts, photos, you tube content, social networks etc etc.

Here are some fun facts about the internet – It contains 8.11 billion pages (Worldwidewebsize), has more than 1.97 billion users, 266 million websites (State of the Internet). We can expect the size to keep growing as the rate of information generation and our thirst for information keeps increasing.

In this world of exploding information the “humble search” will no longer be sufficient. As a user we would like to browse the web in a much more efficient, effective and personalized way.   Neither will site aggregators like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit and the like will be useful.  We need to have a smart way to be able to navigate through this information deluge.

It is here I think that there is a great opportunity for re-imagining the Web Portal. As a user of the web it would be great if the user is shown a view of the web that is personalized to the tastes and interests that is centered on him. What I am proposing is a Web portal that metamorphoses dynamically based on the user’s click stream, the user’s browsing preferences, of his interests and inclinations as the focal center.  Besides the user’s own interests the web portal would also analyze the click streams of the user’s close friends, colleagues and associates. Finally the portal would also include inputs from what the world at large is interested in and following. The web portal would analyze the key user’s preferences and then create a web portal based on its analysis of what the user would like to see.

This can be represented in the diagram below

We have all heard of Google’s zeitgeist which is a massive database of the world’s inclinations and tendencies.  Such a similar database would probably be also held by Yahoo, Microsoft, FB, Twitter etc.

The Web portal in its new incarnation would present contents that are tailored specifically to each user’s browsing patterns. In a single page would be included all news, status updates, latest youtuble videos, tweets etc he would like to see.

In fact this whole functionality can be integrated into the Web browser. In its new avatar the Web Portal would have content that is dynamic, current and personalized to each individual user. Besides every user would also be able to view what his friends, colleagues and the world at large are browsing.

A few years down the line we may see “the return of the dynamic, re-invented Web Portal”.

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