Are Portals Passe?

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I love the ASP/infrastructure story: “we’ll sell our technology to other sites rather than be a destination site.” If end users are not interested, then why would a third party be? When no one strikes gold, infrASPs will eventually have a hard time selling shovels.

Now, as far as Yahoo! goes, here’s my theory. They might portray themselves as a media because most of their revenue is based on advertising, however their added value is not in the content itself but in its integration. MyYahoo is a lot more powerful than other customized portals.

Yahoo! tricked AOL into buying TW, followed by Vivendi diving into Universal (fast follower to the loser). What Yahoo! really wants is to become the biggest web app worldwide. Look no further than the recent Egroups acquisition. Even FinanceVision broadcasts are valuable because of their applike quality (look at the data window) rather than because they include video. Yahoo! is all into building their many partnerships, based on heavy back office software and bare-to-the-bone front end web apps.

While I won’t rejoice like many so-called analysts, it’s true Amazon.com doesn’t deliver nearly as much, as its partner merchants are not as much integrated into a common experience. For instance, Health & Beauty has a different shopping process since you’re really at drugstore.com. Go to Amazon’s video store, they don’t integrate the content from Imdb but just link to it.

Microsoft knows it’s all about software too (see MoneyCentral or HomeAdvisor) but they didn’t deliver much on top of Hotmail yet (nobody uses Passport.) And the many properties within MSN don’t do much together beyond plain cross-selling, while Yahoo!Finance offers patent-free one-click access to the calendar. So Yahoo! is fooling people into looking at the wrong places (content/media) while they’re building the biggest virtual retailer/communication portal of the early ’00s.

They mislead competitors into thinking content aggregation was the key (now easily done with Octopus or Onepage) while they focused on delivering meaningful data integration to users. Yes, if I have pick one to be bullish on, that’s them (long term, don’t day trade on my free-of-consequence punditry.)

04/07/01 update: Yahoo, The Future!. Yes the stock got hammered but we still believe.

01/2015 update: has any company in the tech/media sector more consistently disappointed and under-delivered than Yahoo? Looks like this company is beyond repair, no matter who’s CEO. They were one of the giants and had so much promise!

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