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Industry Standard

Top 10 portals


November 19, 1999
Web posted at: 10:02 a.m. EST (1502 GMT)

by Jim Evans

(IDG) -- The term "portal" is one of the more unfortunate bits of lexicon that the Internet has produced, and it seems to grow less meaningful by the day. There are now vertical portals, corporate portals, consumer portals, e-commerce portals all hoping to persuade customers and investors that they're the doorway to something big.

But even if the word doesn't mean much, the companies that are flying this flag are among the most important in the Internet Economy.

  1. Yahoo Round one of the portal wars is over, and Yahoo has won. Of the four original mainstream search engines turned portals -- Excite, Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo -- the last has come out on top in terms of revenue, market cap, brand recognition and just about everything else.

  2. VerticalNet One of this year's hottest trends in Internet venture investing has been the rise of business-to-business online commerce. In fact, some pundits argue that so many startups have entered the b-to-b arena that most of the opportunities have been snapped up. Henry Blodget, the influential Internet analyst at Merrill Lynch, contends the real promise lies not in delivering goods, but in providing services.

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  4. Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch Though Charles Conn is CEO of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch, Barry Diller's online ambitions lie at the heart of the company. The awkwardly named entity is more than 60 percent owned by USA Networks, which in turn is controlled by Diller.

  5. Lycos When baseball great Reggie Jackson the kind of ballplayer some fans loved to hate was asked by a reporter how it felt to be booed wherever he played, he responded, quite rightly, "Fans don't boo nobodies." The executives at Lycos feel the same way.

  6. LookSmart Looksmart's initial public offering in mid-August quietly marked the end of an era in the Internet Economy the last of the broad-based portals to do an IPO. And the deal received a warm reception: Underwritten by Goldman Sachs, the offering was priced at $12, and now trades in the mid-$20s.

  7. Inktomi When Inktomi went public in June 1998, skeptics cautioned that the company had an unproven business model. In a sense, they were right. No other public companies were then licensing search technology as a primary business. The naysayers also asserted that Inktomi was lucky to be bringing its IPO to market at a time when enthusiasm for initial offerings in general and Net stocks in particular was running high. Right again. The Inktomi IPO, underwritten by Goldman Sachs, priced at $18 a share; by the end of the first trading day, shares hit $36.

  8. Healtheon When no less an astute observer than Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle predicted at the end of 1998 that vertical portals would be the next big thing, he could have been thinking of Healtheon. The company was already poised to be the dominant company in online health information, and it has since merged with WebMD to become an even bigger player than it was before.

  9. Go2Net Call Go2Net the wild card of the Internet Economy. In the past year, the company has come from nowhere to reach No. 9 on the Media Metrix Web property rankings in June. Go2Net built its reach through a flurry of acquisitions of Web content and commerce companies, such as Silicon Investor, a popular investor bulletin board, and Hypermart, which provides free Web-hosting services to small businesses.

  10. CMGI While Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers basks in prestige as the consummate venture-capital firm embedding Sand Hill Road and keiretsu into the industry consciousness another venture- capital firm, CMGI, has embarked on a different road.

  11. Ask Jeeves Ask Jeeves' business model appeals to all technology haters who find they can't avoid going on the Web. It promises to be the plain-English search engine for the newbie Web surfer. When visitors call up the company's site, they are prompted to type in a question in plain English no need to master the intricacies of Boolean logic, as demanded by some other search services.

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Portal Angst: A Good Site Is Hard to Find
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Sega's "Dreamcast network" to feature chat, e-mail, Web browsing, and online gaming
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