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Netscape's Barksdale sees growth of thousands of specialist portals

So are the handful of big portals in trouble? Interesting thought...

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Is Yahoo! doomed? That's certainly one possible conclusion of what NetScape president and CEO Jim Barksdale was saying at the launch of the company's new Custom Netcenter service yesterday. Today, he says, we have just a few 'custom portals' like Yahoo!, which have become major Web hubs, while the Custom Netcenter drive will allow businesses and ISPs to create "thousands of specialised portals." If Barksdale is right, that should mean that site traffic levels should flatten out between a lot of different sites which offer things that particular sets of customers want. This would clearly impact traffic on the handful of major portals we have today, and suggests - again, if Barksdale's right - that outfits like Microsoft and Disney who're determined to make it in portals are throwing their money away. Maybe, maybe not. One point to bear in mind is the fact that Netscape, for most of this year, has been telling us it's beefing-up its Web operations to challenge the likes of Yahoo! So Barksdale executes U-turn? Not exactly. The point of Custom Netcenter is that although it allows corporate customers, ISPs and so on to produce their own specialist portals, what they'll really be doing is personalising these portals using the raw materials, services, content, stock quotes and so on, alongside their own content. All of the Netcenter stuff they use is the sort of stuff that a portal needs to have in order to compete, so if Netscape has spotted a valid trend, then these resources will also allow other portals to join in. Provided their systems are set up to do it, of course. If not, they'll have an expensive time of it while they turn the tanker. Barksdale's pitch certainly seems logical, given that most people know what they want most of the time, and don't want a huge miscellaneous pile of stuff. So adequate personalisation for individuals will be a useful development, as will adding value to specialised 'mini-portals.' ® Click for more stories

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