It seems that the portalization of Google comes up now and then. I just ran across a this quote on Technosailor:

It seems Google is trying to experiment with elements of portal sites like My Yahoo! but still trying to remain in the business of purely search and rejecting the elements of portalhood that it doesn’t like. I’m not so sure you can be on both sides of the fence.

Yeah, I'd agree with that. You can't be on the fence and Google is headed to portaldom. But I think people are focusing on the wrong question, really. The question they should be asking is this:

What will the next generation portal look like?

If their current products are any indication, most things fit into a "one box" view of the world. By that I mean that each of their major properties have an obvious text input box and one or two buttons. The interaction is in one of two modes:

  1. Type into the box and hit the button. Look at results.
  2. Use other navigation to browse. Repeat.

It seems that Froogle, Logal/Maps, and Search (Web, Image, Transcript Video) are clearly in mode #1. While Mail and Groups are unevenly split between #1 and #2. That's not terribly surprising, since those two are more about communication and interaction.

In other words, you may or may not begin by "searching" but will likely end up navigating content that may have ads nearby. But I suspect that 95% or more of their current "sessions" begin with a search of some sort. After all, Google is a advertising search company.

I'm not convinced that the "one box" view of the world is going to be the primary mode of interaction over the next few years. Are you?

Posted by jzawodn at March 12, 2005 04:59 PM

Reader Comments
# Greg Linden said:

Hi, Jeremy. Interesting post, but I'm not sure there's only those two options.

You say there's just two modes, search and browse, but these are both methods of finding data explicitly, both ways of finding something when you already know what you want.

What about discovery? Finding things when you don't know what you want?

Shouldn't a portal help you discover things that you didn't even know existed? Shouldn't a portal adapt to who you are and what you need? Shouldn't a portal learn what you want and help you discover new information and content?

on March 12, 2005 08:06 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I agree on the discovery. But I other than getting lost in your image search results, I don't see how Google helps much with that.

Should portals do that? Yeah, I think so. They should be adapative and help recommend stuff I might like--sorta like and flickr do now via tags, friends, and searching.

on March 12, 2005 08:18 PM
# pb said:

Yahoo's problem was that it put the portal at Google just needs to make sure it doesn't make that mistake.

on March 12, 2005 08:59 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Why was that a problem? It seems to have worked for millions...

on March 12, 2005 09:00 PM
# ZF said:

Google's insight that one can go a lot further with mode #1 than is currently believed, though difficult, still has a long way to go.

One of the great advantages of this as a path is that to advance along it you have to innovate on all levels simultaneously (data gathering, data manipulation, hardware capability and the user interface design). This has the effect of dramatically thinning out the competition.

On pb's comment about putting the portal at, I take your point about your millions of users, but I still feel he's right. The complexity of Yahoo's home page pushes me away, and I never go there. To me it's basically AOL 2.0, a set of web resources for people who don't know their way around. After all, AOL could just as well use your own words "Why was that a problem? It seems to have worked for millions..."

on March 12, 2005 09:23 PM
# mac said:

*cough*It's because the "power" users want to type in instead of to hide your other services *cough*

on March 12, 2005 09:50 PM
# Joost Schuur said:

mac: Ironically, seems to have a lite case of portalitis as of lately. I hadn't been there in a while, but it's 'customizable' now with news, Yahoo! Mail and financial quotes by default.

on March 12, 2005 10:49 PM
# The Notorious D.O.G. said:

jeez, you're right, used to look like google and now looks more like yahoo.

incidentally, what's with the robots.txt on the front page? i tried going to the wayback machine to see the archived versions and it says that is disallowed.

on March 13, 2005 12:18 AM
# Victor said:

Portals like may work for millions, but I am not convinced that's really waht people want, at least it's not what I want. I haven't used for ages. Why? It's way too confined and limited even with the recent rss feed functionality. (A side note, Yahoo really needs a full fledged online rss reader. The current headline-only rss reader is pretty useless.)

I am betting Google will play this "portal" war on an old battle ground -- BROWSER. I know, I know, browser is not a portal, but if you think about it, it's the "mother of all portals".


on March 13, 2005 01:32 AM
# Hashim said:

my mom likes portals like yahoo. She doesn't want to search for and compare different services and manage a half dozen different log ins. For her, the Yahoo homepage is not cluttered at all.

on March 13, 2005 07:23 AM
# goosmurf said:

I think the "one box" view is going to remain dominant for some time yet. Its simply a powerful and easy way to navigate. It allows me total* freedom over the terms I use to find stuff - I don't have to try and guess where the service I'm after is buried within the site's layout.

(*) Its not quite complete freedom since I obviously need to search using keywords that'll return what I want ... but on the other side our friendly techs behind the search are also working furiously to make sure I find what I want with minimal effort.

Its kinda like going into a huge shop and asking someone where product X is as opposed to browsing through endless departments to find it yourself. Laziness comes naturally. :)

The keyboard offers the greatest freedom of expression right now so unless there's some major change in "human input devices" I doubt the "one box" view is going away anytime soon. Doodling with a pen like device could be fun but not very useful for people who can't draw (like myself ;).

IMHO the "one box" view doesn't tie straight into the portal/not-portal question though. News (papers, blogs, whatever) is one of those things that is natural to browse coz you simply can't search for news you don't yet know about.

on March 13, 2005 02:01 PM
# Alex Porter said:

Victor: You said, "(A side note, Yahoo really needs a full fledged online rss reader. The current headline-only rss reader is pretty useless.)"

Try clicking "Edit > Edit Content" next to one of your rss feeds, then change dislay "headline" to display "headline and short summary". Check off "apply to all" if you like, too. Enjoy....

on March 13, 2005 09:47 PM
# Bernard Moon said:

I actually posted on this topic at AlwaysOn a few days ago:

Google Should Just Fess Up. It's Inevitable That They Will Become A Portal (They Need To Own The Login)

But I agree that after Google starts making people login into their portal, they will consider the next step of aggregated services and how to improve upon or differentiate from Yahoo! and MSN.

on March 14, 2005 02:05 AM
# Emma Bunton said:

The future portal or homepage would look something like

One box certainly, but many different companies.

The guys at Yumgo have been doing this for almost two years and they have a huge but niche following.

The idea to be able to combine search sites like Multimap, Ask, Wikipedia, and on one page is certainly the future.

My money is on these guys to develop the best internet portal.

Their address is

on March 14, 2005 08:04 AM
# mac said:

"Try clicking "Edit > Edit Content" next to one of your rss feeds, then change dislay "headline" to display "headline and short summary". Check off "apply to all" if you like, too. Enjoy...."

That still doesn't make it much more useful. I'm assuming he wants something more like Bloglines/Newsgator online, which tracks read items, shows more than the most recent 10 posts, arranges feeds into folders and most importantly, shows full text posts so you never have to leave the single page. Personally, I'll never switch to MyYahoo in it's current state for the same reasons.

on March 14, 2005 09:07 AM
# mike widrick said:

This is a really topical post- but missed out on one thing (was this too soon?). Google News added personalization features. Sounds great and Yahoo like, until you realize that you can't log into Google News, so the 'features' are only stored on one machine at a time- annoying. I'm at work, and dualbooting Linux and Windows at home. So I don't think this feature is all that great. AND the News topic search feature was shockingly underdeveloped.

on March 14, 2005 12:46 PM
# IDentity said:

Hi Again,

I think what Greg was pointing too was right - we need to define what a portal is....or even where it is going. For many its still the "broadcast" medium, others using My Yahoo!, a personalised hub etc.

I guess my only answer is, a portal is what ever you want it too be...all the bindings/api's etc are done in the backgorund. Need to bolt on Flikr press this button, etc, etc.

Tim O'Reilly says ask a room of people if they use Linux, then ask them if they use Google - I htin this applies to the portal space, some one could be actually using a platform of web services, not even knowing who is powering the underlying technology.

This I think is where they "G" & the "Y" will the portal model.

on March 14, 2005 03:30 PM
# BG said:

It's 2005 - can we please get rid of the "portal" word? I don't think there is anything wrong with Google wanting to know it's users better. That being said - to everyone else's point - I trust that Google will not compromise it's service to accomplish this.

on March 15, 2005 07:43 AM
# Seyed Razavi said:

> It's 2005 - can we please get rid of the "portal" word?

Heh, I'm just glad I don't hear "vortal" anymore.

I never liked portals and never visit Yahoo so I really hope Google isn't going that way. Portals are just information noise to me.

A mail reader (Gmail), a search engine (Google) and a decent web based aggregator (Bloglines) integrated on my home page would be just about right I think. Sure, you could add optional modules for quotes (heh, as if I was a stockmarket playa), weather etc. but most of the time I just want to be able to ask the big search box to find me what i'm looking for when i need it. e.g. When I need online currency conversion Google kindly points me to Yahoo's calculator... how I would find it otherwise in Yahoo's mess of a site I don't know.

Community based portals are of much more interest to me... so an Orkut portal would seem a much better proposition.

But after what Yahoo has done with eGroups I wouldn't trust any community tools it provides.

on March 29, 2005 07:49 AM
# Jared0x90 said:

Hey just noticed that you spelled local - logal!

on March 30, 2005 04:01 AM
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