Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 22, 2010 9:00 PM

Do Web Portals Have A Future?

Something big happened in the Digital Marketing landscape last week.

In case you missed it, on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010, Compete announced that Facebook surged passed Yahoo! as the number two most popular website in the U.S. That's big news, and most people focused on the numbers (nearly 134 Million Unique Visitors in January 2010, amazing engagement and thoughts about whether or not Facebook can eventually trump Google's position at #1), which is an important part.

But there's something bigger happening here.

It's easy to call this the death of the portal (and it might be), but that comment would be somewhat displaced if you looked at the numbers and how the rest of the Compete list plays out. What is happening is that as more and more people who are connecting online - and are building their profiles in spaces like online social networks - are much more inclined to make those personal pages their homepage.

That is a really big deal.

What people are saying is, "my space is more important than your space." Sure, portals can lay the pages out with edited, aggregated and curated news, but nothing beats the news that is created by friends, followers and those we know. Even Yahoo! has changed the game a little earlier this year with their new campaign that focuses on making your Yahoo! homepage more personal, but it's still not the same thing as ones Facebook profile. This is not a fad, but rather a huge shift in how we first engage and connect when we go online. The new homepage is slowly shifting away from the portal model and into the personal model. This was not possible a few years ago, but as these technologies, platforms and channels continue to evolve, having your homepage be your own, personal river of news from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, or whatever is becoming much more commonplace (and what people seem to want as their home destination).

The Web is becoming ever-more real-time.

And as this shift happens beneath our feet (and though our mobile devices), we're able to capture and connect more to real people - who really matter to us. So, the big question becomes: what are these mass media-like portals going to do to compete against people switching their homepages to their own personal profiles? Maybe a better question is: is there anything the portals can offer up that can trump that?

As we connect more and more, we're clearly looking for something more personal and personalized.

By Mitch Joel


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