We can distinguish three families of mediators on the
- the access providers (portal sites, communities,
search agents) which receive Internet users ;
- secondary service providers (price comparison or
recommendation services) which select the different
commercial services available
- primary service providers (corporations, consolidators,
opportunity detectors) who create commercial trading
These intermediaries have the job of welcoming Internet
users and guiding them on the Web. This role has often
been the prerogative of the search tools, but the increasingly
complex conditions of use of Internet and its users' needs
have led to specialised services being created. Besides
the current development of portal sites and communities,
a new form of help is appearing : search agents.
Definition : a virtual intermediary space, which benefits
from a large share of the general Internet users or a
precisely targeted market; users can quickly find the
required online service by a combination of content, services,
groupware and search tools.
In order to understand the concept of a portal site,
you must know the history of search tools on Internet.
For a long time, search directories like Yahoo! or Excite
made their only income from the displaying advertising.
They recorded a high volume of traffic, and each internet user
connecting several times a month to these sites (see Online visibility optimization) Unfortunately,
their visitors only consulted two or three pages on average
during each visit. This only allowed them to display two
or three advertisements, which represented 50 or 60 centimes
of advertising income. The search engines then tried to
increase their services, to encourage their visitors to
stay longer and to look at more pages to generate more
advertising income. The distribution of news bulletins
from agencies such as AFP (Agence France-Presse) or Reuters
was one of the first services proposed, followed by stock
market information and sports results. Other research
services were added to the basic product : Yahoo ! which
started life as a directory, added a search engine with
integrated text, bought up an e-mail address directory,
a yellow pages service and included a free e-mail service.
Finally, the manna of online shopping allowed the portal
sites to increase their income : one after another, they
added shopping spaces.
The different components of a portal
site currently are: