Enterprise Portals: Reborn and Transformed by the Social Web

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Is the enterprise portal thriving, or has the web evolved in such a way that the very concept is now outdated? Has it been helped or swept into oblivion by the successive waves of progress of Web 2.0 and the already-much-ballyhooed Web 3.0? 

Despite the phenomenal growth of user-generated and collaborative web culture, the notion of a centrally managed, single point of entry to reach company applications and content persists in companies across the globe. Where the top-level goals for enterprise portals were once clear (i.e., integration, centralization of infrastructure, and personalization), the opinions of experts in the field differ greatly on what the priorities should be today. 

Enterprise portals took their early inspirations from public portal companies such as Lycos and Yahoo!, as businesses saw immediate value in giving employees access to business applications side by side with useful information and inviting features such as news, weather, and 401(k) calculators. Portal projects—typically owned either by corporate human resources departments or corporate communications—seemed a boon to these departments, where the challenge has always been getting busy employees to pay attention to their communications. So the notion of intercepting employees with messages at a central gateway was like getting the chance to place a giant billboard in plain view on their ride in to the office. 

Jonathan Markow, executive director of JA-SIG, a nonprofit international consortium of educational institutions and commercial affiliates supporting open source software development, says that portals are more like windows that merely offer a view into different worlds of content. "Portals are not necessarily top-down, hierarchical structures. They are intrinsically flat collections of content that are organized into pages, tabs, and portlets." Much of the current criticism levied at the portals built under the corporate communications model is that not enough thought has gone into viewing portals as providers of a service to employees that can help them get their work done faster.

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