UK portals lag US giants

Hope for NTL

Home-grown portals in the UK continue to lag behind the Anglicised giants of the US, according to research from Forrester.

Together, AOL.co.uk, MSN.co.uk, and Yahoo!.co.uk have managed to hang on to 26 per cent of the UK's Web traffic in 2002, despite losing ground to non-traditional portals such as Google, eBay, and the BBC.

They've done it thanks to email and instant messaging, although analysts are a tad concerned that premium services - such as email storage - have yet to really take-off.

On the other hand, BT Openworld's standing as a portal has "languished" despite a wealth of broadband content and the backing of the incumbent telco.

Freeserve.com has also lost ground despite its position as one of the UK's leading ISPs. The reason for this, it seems, is that punters use Freeserve for access and only spend a short amount of time on Freeserve's portal before disappearing somewhere else.

Tiscali and Lycos "are still hanging on", say analysts.

The only bright spot appears to be cableco NTL, which Forrester claims has emerged as a "broadband powerhouse" - something which could help it close the gap on the established portal leaders.

For the rest, Forrester's crystal ball sees MSN and Yahoo! as hard to tell apart, effectively offering the same services and only differing in the way they look.

AOL's narrowband users will keep it healthy for another year although as more and more opt for broadband it will have to branch out and offer broadband content-only as well as bundled access and content.

BT Openworld looks set to slide into a "price-insensitive niche" attracting home businesses and up-market consumers that want to play it safe with the BT brand.

Oh, and Freeserve looks set to continue to focus on narrowband users while Tiscali will shift into the "underserved SME market". ®

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