Web portal

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A web portal is a specially designed website that brings information from diverse sources, like emails, online forums and search engines, together in a uniform way. Usually, each information source gets its dedicated area on the page for displaying information (a portlet); often, the user can configure which ones to display. Variants of portals include mashups and intranet "dashboards" for executives and managers. The extent to which content is displayed in a "uniform way" may depend on the intended user and the intended purpose, as well as the diversity of the content. Very often design emphasis is on a certain "metaphor" for configuring and customizing the presentation of the content (e.g., a dashboard or map) and the chosen implementation framework or code libraries. In addition, the role of the user in an organization may determine which content can be added to the portal or deleted from the portal configuration.

Contents

A portal may use a search engine's application programming interface (API) to permit users to search intranet content as opposed to extranet content by restricting which domains may be searched. Apart from this common search engines feature, web portals may offer other services such as e-mail, news, stock quotes, information from databases and even entertainment content. Portals provide a way for enterprises and organizations to provide a consistent "look and feel" with access control and procedures for multiple applications and databases, which otherwise would have been different web entities at various URLs. The features available may be restricted by whether access is by an authorized and authenticated user (employee, member) or an anonymous website visitor.

History

In the late 1990s, the Web portal was a Web IT buzzword. After the proliferation of Web browsers in the late-1990s, many companies tried to build or acquire a portal to attempt to obtain a share of an Internet market. The Web portal gained special attention because it was, for many users, the starting point of their Web browsing if it was set as their home page. The content and branding of a portal could change as Internet companies merged or were acquired. Netscape became a part of America Online, the Walt Disney Company launched Go.com, IBM and others launched Prodigy. Portal metaphors are widely used by public library sites for borrowers using a login as users and by university intranets for students and for faculty. Vertical markets remain for ISV's (Independent Software Vendors) offering management and executive intranet "dashboards" for corporations and government agencies in areas such as governance, risk management, and compliance

Classification

Web portals are sometimes classified as horizontal or vertical. A horizontal portal is used as a platform to several companies in the same economic sector or to the same type of manufacturers or distributors. [1] A vertical portal (also known as a "vortal") is a specialized entry point to a specific market or industry niche, subject area, or interest. [2] Some vertical portals are known as "vertical information portals" (VIPs). VIPs provide news, editorial content, digital publications, and e-commerce capabilities. In contrast to traditional vertical portals, VIPs also provide dynamic multimedia applications including social networking, video posting, and blogging.

Types

Personal portal

A personal portal is a Web Page at a Web site on the World Wide Web or a local HTML home page including JavaScript and perhaps running in a modified Web browser. A personal portal typically provides personalized capabilities to its visitors or its local user, providing a pathway to other content. It may be designed to use distributed applications, different numbers and types of middleware and hardware to provide services from a number of different sources and may run on a non-standard local Web server. In addition, business portals can be designed for sharing and collaboration in workplaces. A further business-driven requirement of portals is that the content be presented on multiple platforms such as personal computers, laptops, tablet computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones and smartphones.

Information, news, and updates are examples of content that could be delivered through such a portal. Personal portals can be related to any specific topic such as providing friends information on a social network or providing links to outside content that may help others beyond your reach of services. Portals are not limited to simply providing links. Outside of business intranet user, very often simpler portals become replaced with richer mashup designs. Within enterprises, early portals were often replaced by much more powerful "dashboard" designs. Some also have relied on newer protocols such as some version of RSS aggregation and may or may not involve some degree of Web harvesting.

Government

At the end of the dot-com boom in the 1990s, many governments had already committed to creating government web portal sites for their citizens. These included primary portals to the governments as well as portals developed for specific branches (e.g., a particular government ministry, department or agency), or for specific sub-audiences (e.g., senior citizens, parents, post-secondary students, etc.). Notable government web portals include:

Cultural

Cultural portals aggregate digitised cultural collections of galleries, libraries (see: library portal), archives and museums. This type of portal provides a point of access to invisible Web cultural content that may not be indexed by standard search engines. Digitised collections can include scans or digital photos of books, artworks, photography, journals, newspapers, maps, diaries and letters and digital files of music, sound recordings, films, and archived websites as well as the descriptive metadata associated with each type of cultural work (e.g., metadata provides information about the author, publisher, etc.). These portals are often based around a specific national or regional groupings of institutions. Notable cultural portals include:

Corporate

Corporate intranets became common during the 1990s. As intranets grew in size and complexity, organization webmasters were faced with increasing content and user management challenges. A consolidated view of company information was judged insufficient; users wanted personalization and customization. Webmasters, if skilled enough, were able to offer some capabilities, but for the most part ended up driving users away from using the intranet. Many companies began to offer tools to help webmasters manage their data, applications and information more easily, and by providing different users with personalized views. Portal solutions can also include workflow management, collaboration between work groups or branches, and policy-managed content publication. Most can allow internal and external access to specific corporate information using secure authentication or single sign-on.

JSR168 Standards emerged around 2001. Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 standards allow the interoperability of portlets across different portal platforms. These standards allow portal developers, administrators and consumers to integrate standards-based portals and portlets across a variety of vendor solutions. The concept of content aggregation seems to still gain momentum and portal solution will likely continue to evolve significantly over the next few years. The Gartner Group predicts generation 8 portals to expand on the Business Mashups concept of delivering a variety of information, tools, applications and access points through a single mechanism.[ citation needed ][ better source needed ]

With the increase in user-generated content (blog posts, comments, photos), disparate data silos, and file formats, information architects and taxonomists will be required to allow users the ability to tag (classify) the data or content. For example, if a vice-president makes a blog post, this post could be tagged with her/his name, title, and the subject of the post. Tagging makes it easier for users of the intranet to find the content they are interested in. This will ultimately cause a ripple effect where users will also be generating ad hoc navigation and information flows. Corporate portals also offer customers and employees self-service opportunities.

Stock

Also known as stock-share portals, stock market portals or stock exchange portals are Web-based applications that facilitates the process of informing the share-holders with substantial online data such as the latest price, ask/bids, the latest News, reports and announcements. Some stock portals use online gateways through a central depository system (CDS) for the visitors (ram) to buy or sell their shares or manage their portfolio.

Search portals aggregate results from several search engines into one page. You can find search portals specialized in a product, for example property search portals. Library search portals are also known as discovery interfaces.

Property search portals aggregate data about properties for sale by real estate agents. Notable property search portals in the UK include Nestoria, Nuroa, OnTheMarket, Rightmove and Zoopla.

Tender

A tender portal is a gateway for government suppliers to bid on providing goods and services. Tender portals allow users to search, modify, submit, review and archive data in order to provide a complete online tendering process.

Using online tendering, bidders can do any of the following:

Hosted

Hosted Web portals gained popularity and a number of companies began offering them as a hosted service. The hosted portal market fundamentally changed the composition of portals. In many ways they served simply as a tool for publishing information instead of the loftier goals of integrating legacy applications or presenting correlated data from distributed databases. The early hosted portal companies such as Hyperoffice.com or the now defunct InternetPortal.com focused on collaboration and scheduling in addition to the distribution of corporate data. As hosted Web portals have risen in popularity their feature set has grown to include hosted databases, document management, email, discussion forums and more. Hosted portals automatically personalize the content generated from their modules to provide a personalized experience to their users. In this regard they have remained true to the original goals of the earlier corporate Web portals.

Emerging new classes of Internet portals called Cloud Portals are showcasing the power of API (Application Programming Interface) rich software systems leveraging SOA (service-oriented architecture, Web services, and custom data exchange) to accommodate machine to machine interaction creating a more fluid user experience for connecting users spanning multiple domains during a given "session". Cloud portals like Nubifer Cloud Portal show what is possible using Enterprise Mashup and Web Service integration approaches to building cloud portals.

Domain-specific

A number of portals have come about which are specific to a particular domain, offering access to related companies and services; a prime example of this trend would be the growth in property portals that give access to services such as estate agents, removal firm, and solicitors that offer conveyancing. Along the same lines, industry-specific news and information portals have appeared, such as the clinical trials-specific portal.

Engineering aspects

Overview

The main concept is to present the user with a single Web page that brings together or aggregates content from a number of other systems or servers. The application server or architecture performs most of the crucial functions of the application. This application server is in turn connected to database servers, and may be part of a clustered server environment. High-capacity portal configurations may include load balancing strategies. For portals that present application functionality to the user, the portal server is in reality the front piece of a server configuration that includes some connectivity to the application server. For early Web browsers permitting HTML frameset and iframe elements, diverse information could be presented without violating the browser same-source security policy (relied upon to prevent a variety of cross-site security breaches). More recent client-side technologies rely on JavaScript frameworks and libraries that rely on more recent Web functionality such as WebSockets and asynchronous callbacks using XMLHttpRequests.

The server hosting the portal may only be a "pass through" for the user. By use of portlets, application functionality can be presented in any number of portal pages. For the most part, this architecture is transparent to the user. In such a design, security and concurrent user capacity can be important issues, and security designers need to ensure that only authenticated and authorized users can generate requests to the application server. If the security design and administration does not ensure adequate authentication and authorization, then the portal may inadvertently present vulnerabilities to various types of attacks.

Standards

See also

Related Research Articles

An intranet is a computer network for sharing information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services within an organization, usually to the exclusion of access by outsiders. The term is used in contrast to public networks, such as the Internet, but uses most of the same technology based on the Internet Protocol Suite.

Web mining is the application of data mining techniques to discover patterns from the World Wide Web. As the name proposes, this is information gathered by mining the web. It makes utilization of automated apparatuses to reveal and extricate data from servers and web2 reports, and it permits organizations to get to both organized and unstructured information from browser activities, server logs, website and link structure, page content and different sources.

Enterprise content management (ECM) extends the concept of content management by adding a timeline for each content item and, possibly, enforcing processes for its creation, approval and distribution. Systems using ECM generally provide a secure repository for managed items, analog or digital. They also include one methods for importing content to bring manage new items, and several presentation methods to make items available for use. Although ECM content may be protected by digital rights management (DRM), it is not required. ECM is distinguished from general content management by its cognizance of the processes and procedures of the enterprise for which it is created.

Personalization consists of tailoring a service or a product to accommodate specific individuals, sometimes tied to groups or segments of individuals. A wide variety of organizations use personalization to improve customer satisfaction, digital sales conversion, marketing results, branding, and improved website metrics as well as for advertising. Personalization is a key element in social media and recommender systems.

An intraweb is a web comprising all HTTP nodes on an intranet; synonyms are corporate web, internal web.

Federated search is an information retrieval technology that allows the simultaneous search of multiple searchable resources. A user makes a single query request which is distributed to the search engines, databases or other query engines participating in the federation. The federated search then aggregates the results that are received from the search engines for presentation to the user. Federated search can be used to integrate disparate information resources within a single large organization ("enterprise") or for the entire web.

The Java Portlet Specification defines a contract between the portlet container and portlets and provides a convenient programming model for Java portlet developers.

A mashup, in web development, is a web page or web application that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface. For example, a user could combine the addresses and photographs of their library branches with a Google map to create a map mashup. The term implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open application programming interfaces and data sources to produce enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data. The term mashup originally comes from West Indies British slang meaning to be intoxicated, or as a description for something or someone not functioning as intended. In recent English parlance it can refer to music, where people seamlessly combine audio from one song with the vocal track from another - thereby mashing them together to create something new.

Plumtree Software is a former software company founded in 1996 by product managers and engineers from Oracle and Informix with funding from Sequoia Capital. The company was a pioneer of extending the portal concept popularized by Yahoo! from the web to enterprise computing. BEA Systems acquired Plumtree on October 20, 2005, and Oracle subsequently acquired BEA. Plumtree's former portal product continues as part of Oracle's product line.

An enterprise portal, also known as an enterprise information portal (EIP), is a framework for integrating information, people and processes across organizational boundaries in a manner similar to the more general web portals. Enterprise portals provide a secure unified access point, often in the form of a web-based user interface, and are designed to aggregate and personalize information through application-specific portlets.

Adobe LiveCycle

Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite (ES4) is a service-oriented architecture Java EE server software product from Adobe Systems used to build applications that automate a broad range of business processes for enterprises and government agencies. LiveCycle ES4 is an enterprise document and form platform that allows capturing and processing information, delivering personalized communications, and protecting and tracking sensitive information. It is used for purposes such as account opening, services and benefits enrollment, correspondence management, request for proposal processes, and other manual based workflows. LiveCycle ES4 incorporates new features with a particular focus on mobile devices. LiveCycle applications also function in both online or offline environments. These capabilities are enabled through the use of Adobe Reader, HTML/PhoneGap and the Flash Player clients to reach desktop computers and mobile devices.

Nestoria is a vertical search engine for real estate. In terms of users, Nestoria is the 5th largest property web site in the UK and the 9th in Spain.

SharePoint Web application platform

SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. Launched in 2001, SharePoint is primarily sold as a document management and storage system, but the product is highly configurable and usage varies substantially among organizations.

Oracle WebCenter is Oracle's portfolio of user engagement software products built on top of the JSF-based Oracle Application Development Framework. There are three main products that make up the WebCenter portfolio and they can be purchased together as a suite or individually:

Geo-replication systems are designed to improve the distribution of data across geographically distributed data networks. This is intended to improve the response time for applications such as web portals. Geo-replication can be achieved using software, hardware or a combination of the two.

On-Device Portals (ODPs) allow mobile phone users to easily browse, purchase and use mobile content and services. An ODP platform enables operators to provide a consistent and branded on-device experience across their broadening portfolio of services and typically provides on-device catalogs of content for purchase, deep links to WAP portals, customer care functionality and rich media services such as full track music, TV and video.

An intranet portal is the gateway that unifies access to enterprise information and applications on an intranet. It is a tool that helps a company manage its data, applications, and information more easily through personalized views. Some portal solutions are able to integrate legacy applications, objects from other portals, and handle thousands of user requests. In a corporate enterprise environment, it is also known as an enterprise portal.

WebSphere Portal is an enterprise software used to build and manage web portals. It provides access to web content and applications, while delivering personalized experiences for users.

Web data services refers to service-oriented architecture (SOA) applied to data sourced from the World Wide Web and the Internet as a whole. Web data services enable maximal mashup, reuse, and sharing of structured data, semi-structured information, and unstructured information.

Intrexx is a cross-platform integrated development environment for the creation and operation of multilingual web-based applications, intranets, social intranets, enterprise portals and customer portals (extranets) as well as Industry 4.0 solutions as of 2018. A portal is created based on the drag and drop principle, keeping the need for programming skills to a minimum. Furthermore, Intrexx can create mobile applications for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and the like with just a few mouse clicks.

References

  1. "What is horizontal portal? definition and meaning". BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  2. "What is vertical portal? definition and meaning". BusinessDictionary.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011.

Further reading