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We can distinguish three families of mediators on the distribution level

  • 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 spaces.

Access providers

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.

Portal sites

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:

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We haven't updated it online as the vision still is more and more relevant: the more the internet matures, the closer it gets to our vision.

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