Are Portals on Their Way Out? Platforms Are The New Portals

Scott Karp has a fascinating post about portals vs. platforms on his Publishing 2.0 blog.

“We’ve all become so enamored with the increasingly distributed nature of the web (…) and the success of user-centric platforms like YouTube and MySpace. But we seem to be forgetting that the most successful platforms are acting just like portals — the “one stop shop” to find everything you want or a system that channels all of the value. Yahoo doesn’t create most of the content it aggregates — it’s an old school portal because it aggregates it by hand, so it’s a closed system and therefore less efficient than the platforms. But even a platform like YouTube that embraces the distributed nature of the web is still acting like a portal because YouTube is THE place to upload your videos and THE place to find your videos. “”Platforms (…) are indeed a sea change because anyone can participate, unlike the old portals, where your content had to be selected for aggregation. But these platforms still want all of the value to pass through them, which is the essential nature of portals and mass media. What I don’t understand about the face-off between YouTube and the TV networks is that everyone is still looking at it through the portal/mass media lens. Why is it YouTube vs. a YouTube killer created jointly by the networks? Why can’t video content owners follow the path of blogs and publish their content through whatever platform they want? The only missing ingredient is search — people come to YouTube to search for music videos or the latest Comedy Central clip. Once you can search for video from a third party search engine, it won’t matter where the video is hosted…”

What it means: one of the most interesting analysis of the year. I believe that we are seeing the rise of vertical, specialized sites, being built from the ground up via decentralization. Ease of syndication is what’s creating these new monster destination sites. Look at your business. If you’re running a specialized destination site and you’re not using sophisticated syndication (RSS, XML, API), someone might leverage this to conquer the market. Your goal should be to become one element of the Web 2.0 “Operating System”, i.e. an intrinsic part of the Internet fabric like YouTube and Google Maps.

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