Web portals are organized gateways that help to structure the access to information found on the Internet. Much more than a simple search engine, they usually include customizable access to data such as stock reports, local, regional, and national news, and email services. Most of the better-known portals are commonly identified as search engines, although they offer much more than simply the ability to search the Internet.
While many people assume that the web portal has been around since the invention of the Internet, that is not the case. The earliest tools used to gain access to online data were simple engines that allowed users to search for keywords or key phrases to find online pages, and were known as web directories. As it became possible to broaden the use of this feature to include the ability to enter a specific web address as a means of connecting with a web site, these tools evolved into what is known as a search engine.
A true portal offers both of these functions, plus a great deal more. Along with the ability to browse the Internet using keywords and to enter web addresses to reach specific pages online, it also provides services such as the ability to set up a customized user page that provides instant access to weather reports. Those pages also provide access to current stock market activity, profiles of other users that utilize the portal, and various types of news that is of interest to the individual user. Online portals also offer free email services that can be accessed from this main page, using specific login credentials. Those same credentials are also used to allow the user access to services like online messaging, social networks, and personals advertisements.
While there are many web portals designed for general use by consumers, there are also portals that are created for the use of authorized personnel only. This is the case with the corporate or business portal. In this case, access is limited to those with login credentials issued and managed by the employer. Portals of this type are helpful in allowing employees who are traveling to access corporate servers and connect with documents and other data saved on the server. Corporate portals may also be configured to allow customers to browse, search, and purchase goods and services from the company.
Government portals are another example. As with the corporate model, users must have authorized access to the page in the form of login credentials, security clearance, and other proprietary access codes. This helps to ensure that employees can only gain access to data that is considered within their area of responsibility, and effectively prevents the use of proprietary data by unauthorized individuals virtually impossible.
Due to the ongoing development of Internet technology, there is every reason to believe that web portals will continue to evolve over time. Just as many of the functions associated with portals today were not available a few years ago, new features are sure to emerge in the years to come. Many of these will be driven not only by customer demand, but also by the growing reliance of businesses of all sizes on the services provided online.