Personal Portals and the Ajax Attack

Richard MacManus posts today about the various personal portals that have recently come online and the effect of the same of the traditional portals like My Yahoo.

I have been thinking and writing about the both the new and old portals as well.

The New Spin

Along with social bookmarking and the 50,000 or so online calendars, one of the new Web 2.0 lines is the reinvented personal portal. Many of these applications are Ajax-based, which makes them easier to customize, on both the developer and user ends. Richard says, and I heartily agree, that:

[T]hey all use Ajax in the UI. For that reason there’s something uniquely “Web 2.0” about personalized start pages. But in other ways, they harken back to the dot com era when portals were all the rage (Excite, AltaVista, Lycos, etc). For example, the main aim of the game is still getting traffic.

Like a lot of Web 2.0 stuff, these portals are improvements on existing things, not the revolutionary new creations that some people like to believe (or more accurately, like to try to make us believe).

The New Players

That’s not to say these new players in the personal portal game aren’t worthy. In fact many of them are. I have already written about some of them already:

Pageflakes and Eskobo

and several others are future contestants in my Web 2.0 Wars series.

Others that Richard mentions are Netvibes and Protopage. He also posted an Ajax homepages market review at ZDNet and mentioned LinkedFeed, ItsAStart, Zoozio and Wrickr.

Are Portals Still Relevant?

I absolutely believe they are. I have defended them here and here.

In a nutshell, I believe portals are still highly useful as newspaper alternative, to aggregate the sort of content that I find doesn’t really fit into typical RSS readers. Rather, these pages take content, often from RSS feeds, and display it in an organized, newspaper-like manner. This allows me to skim newspaper-type content in an online, but newspaper-like, manner.

I read blogs via a feed reader, but I still get my news, weather, sports, stock prices and similar content via a portal.

What About the Old School Portals?

While not as Ajaxy as some of the new players, I still find My Yahoo to be, by far, the best of the personal portals. Recent back-end changes have made it very easy to add RSS content to your My Yahoo page.

Richard makes a good point when he wonders when Yahoo will enable Yahoo Widgets content in My Yahoo. I agree that this is a good idea and I expect it will happen before too long.

Google and Microsoft are also involved in the portal game, via Google Homepages and Windows Live. While those applications are closer in look and feel to the new Ajax-based applications and backed by companies with huge mindshare and pocketbooks, I don’t like them nearly as much as My Yahoo, Ajax or not.


I view blogs, Ajax and all the other Web 2.0 stuff as complimentary to a good, old fashioned personal portal. And while Yahoo needs to be aware of the new players in the game and work to keep up feature wise, I still think My Yahoo is the best personal portal solution available today.

Some of these new players may pass Yahoo in the personal portal game, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

My money’s still on Yahoo to win.