Re-imagining the web portal

Tinniam V. Ganesh/IBM India
15 Mar 2012

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 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 in the mid 1990s. Much water has flowed through the river Thames since then - many pages have been uploaded into the trillion servers that make up the internet. There is now so much more information in the worldwide web. News articles, wikis, blogs, tweets, webinars, podcasts, photos, YouTube content, social networks, the list goes on.

Here are some fun facts about the internet – It contains 8.11 billion pages, has more than 1.97 billion users, 266 million websites. 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. It would make eminent sense if a web portal could be designed which metamorphoses dynamically based on the user’s click stream, the user’s browsing preferences, the user’s 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. In other words the web portal would render a web page with links that are based largely on the users past browsing history, the history of his friends and colleagues and finally what topics are trending on the internet in the various fields. The web portal would choose a sliding window that overlays the user’s, his/her friends and the world’s current and past click streams for rendering.

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