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Getting personal

October 12, 1998
Web posted at: 5:00 PM EDT

by Emily Fi


NEW YORK (IDG) -- In Thursday's afternoon keynote address here at Fall Internet World, Netscape CEO James Barksdale described the future of the Internet as the personalization of the Internet.

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To help make this vision real, Netscape announced Custom Netcenter, a service designed to help an organization create corporate portals that integrate that organization's specific applications and business information with the services and content of Netscape's own Netcenter portal.

With Custom Netcenter, companies will be able to create customized home pages for employees based on My Netscape technology, that will feature both personal and business content.

"Portals are an integral part of the Net Economy," according to Barksdale. "While custom portals are limited to a few corporations right now, by late 1999, that number will increase to the hundreds and thousands."

Portals are the ideal way for corporations to achieve their goals of acquiring and keeping customers and lowering cost, Barksdale said in his address. He gave the example of Citibank, whose goal is to capture one billion customers by 2010.

"Citibank believes that one way to do this is through portals -- they've said it costs them 20 percent less to meet customers electronically than otherwise," Barksdale said.

Netscape plans to leverage the ubiquity of its browser, its enterprise software, and its portal services -- including the new Custom Netcenter -- to help its enterprise customers expand their own businesses by better harnessing the Internet.

Barksdale gave search technology as an example of an Internet service that needed to get smarter and more personalized.

"After spending millions of dollars on search and navigation, it's still hard as hell to find anything," Barksdale said. He and other players in the portal space believe that smart browsing is the answer. It is one example of how the Internet's power increases exponentially when the information it delivers is intuitive and personalized.

For the skeptics who believe that portals are a commoditized service that will never generate revenue, Barksdale used the cellular telephone as a comparison.

"Just like in the cellular business when they started giving phones away, I'll give you the service and the machine, just give me the first 10 clicks in the morning," Barksdale said.

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