Web portals come in two flavors — internal and external. Internal portals are designed to provide services within an organization, while external portals serve as a starting point for browsing the web.
Many businesses have a company portal, which is a website designed to provide communication and services to employees. For example, it may include a calendar of events, such as meetings, product releases, and other important dates. It may also provide links to employee documents, such as the employee handbook, tax forms, and FAQs for common job-related questions. Company portals often include a way for employees to communicate with each other, either through live messaging or email.
Internal portals often exist within an intranet, which is a private network. This means only authorized users can access the portal. In most cases, you must enter valid login information in order to use an internal portal. While some portal services are installed within a local network, others are hosted by remote servers. Remotely-hosted portals may not offer as much customization as locally installed ones, but they also require less maintenance. Both types of portals can be accessed with a standard web browser.
An external portal is a website designed to be a starting point on the web. It consolidates links to different subjects and related articles, simplifying the web browsing process. Yahoo, for example, is a well-known portal that includes categories such as News, Sports, Finance, Shopping, Movies, Politics, Tech, and others. Each of these topics include links to news stories, both internal and external, to Yahoo! that you can read.
In the early days of the Internet, portals were a common way for people to browse the web. However, as search engine technology improved in the late 1990s, people started using search engines more and portals less. As a result, web portals have faded in popularity over the past few decades and only a few remain.
NOTE: A portal is different than a search engine, but most portals include some type of search feature. Yahoo! is both a portal and a search engine since it includes a comprehensive web search capability. Google is primarily a search engine and was not originally designed to be a portal. However, since Google now provides services like YouTube, Google Maps, Google Drive, Gmail, News, and others from the Google home page, it is also a portal.