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March 25, 2006

Google Is Not A Portal

Garett Rogers asks: "Is Google already a portal?".

In 1998, when Google was getting started, Scott Rosenberg speaked about Google as a better search engine:

"Google ... is important -- as a sign, amid the profusion of look-alike portals, that there's still plenty of room for improvement in the basic technologies we use on the Web every day. If the portals themselves don't generate innovation, smart people elsewhere will. Commerce is a big driving force in how the Web evolves, but creativity is another. Just as imaginative marketers will keep finding ways to sell us more stuff, inventive programmers will keep finding ways to reduce noise and confusion online and help us all find what we're looking for. ... The irony here is that the big portal sites are the ones, increasingly, making it harder to use the Web: They're under such pressure to turn a profit to justify their market valuations that their pages have become crowded, blinking arrays of commercial distractions. Meanwhile, they're failing to drive forward the technology at the root of their business.

That a couple of grad students could build a better search engine than a whole raft of media and technology companies with stock-market valuations in the billions does not speak well of how these firms are spending their budgets. ... Which is one more reason to distrust the conventional view that the portals have the future of the Web sewn up. There's something ultimately dumb about these all-things-to-all-people sites in a medium whose greatest strength is the ability to be specific things to specific people. If the portals can't even build a better search engine, I am not betting on their ability to control an industry as fast-moving, innovative and metamorphic as the Internet -- next year or any year."

Google is not a portal, it's a homepage for the web, a door for information. It has a personalized home feature, but that's not a collection of links that promote other services or articles like: "Should I Forgive Her For Cheating?" (see the screenshot from

If they are not already a portal, how will we know if it actually does become one? When the screenshot that illustrates this post will be from

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