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Internet giants such as Yahoo!, AOL and MSN could be under threat from a new political portal due to be launched at the end of the year. The UK government said it wants to establish its own portal to give people the chance to interact directly with Whitehall. Whether it means that Net users will swap today's consumer-friendly portals for something a little more dry is still uncertain, but such a move would certainly be of interest to political junkies. The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Jack Cunningham, said the portal will open up a range of one stop shop services, such as providing information about a change of address to different parts of government. And he pledged that government Web sites will give more information and be more convenient to use under new guidelines to be issued by the Cabinet Office's Central IT Unit in November. Which should come as a warning to the Web heads at the Central Office of Communication (COI) which currently hosts much of the government's Web services. Not only is the COI site slow and unwieldy, a flashing multicolour redesign panel is so outrageous that even a chameleon on acid would think it was too lurid. If this is the standard of Web design within the government then maybe AOL et al don't have anything to worry about after all. Yesterday's announcement was one of 62 listed by Cunningham -- known as "the Enforcer" -- and is intended to reflect the modernising credentials of the Labour government. ®

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