A web portal is a web site that provides a starting point, a gateway, or portal, to other resources on the Internet or Intranet. The building blocks of portals are portlets. Portals typically provide personalization capabilities to their users. Somewhat bizarrely Open Directory requires that sites listed as a "portal" contain these features:
1990s, the web portal was a hot commodity. After the rapid diffusion of web browsers in the mid 1990s, many companies tried to build or acquire a portal, in order to have a piece of Internet market. Web portal gained a special attention because it was, for many users, the starting point of their web browser. Netscape Netcenter became a part of America Online, the Walt Disney Company launched Go.com, and Excite became a part of AT&T during the late 1990s. Lycos was said to be a good target for other media companies such as CBS.
Many of the portals started initially as either Internet directories (notably Yahoo) and/or search engines (Excite, Lycos, Altavista, infoseek, and HotBot among the old ones). The expansion of service provision occurred as a strategy to secure the user-base and lengthen the time a user stays on the portal. Services which require user registrations such as free email, customization features, chatrooms were considered to enhance repeat use of the portal. Game, chat, email, news, and other services also tend to make users' stay longer, thereby increase the advertisement revenue.
In the early 2000s, a major industry shift in web portal focus has been the corporate intranet portal, or "enterprise web". Where expecting millions of unaffiliated users to return to a public web portal has been something of a mediocre financial success, using a private web portal to unite the web communications and thinking inside a large corporation has begun to be seen by many as both a labor-saving and a money-saving technology. Most enterprise portals provide single sign-on capabilities to their users. Some corporate analysts have predicted that corporate intranet web portal spending will be one of the top 5 areas for growth in the internet technologies sector during the first decade of the 21st century.
See also: about.com