AOL & Yahoo: The Demise Of The Portal

Rumour has it that AOL and Yahoo, two technology companies who not so many years ago had become almost synonymous with the internet itself, are looking to merge (although Yahoo could potentially choose to acquire AOL using its cash reserve).

Getting these two former web giants under one umbrella however, is not a sure recipe for success, or as Ars Technica puts it - could two wrongs make a right?

Beyond the fact that both AOL and Yahoo have just lost two key employees - Carol Bartz and Michael Arrington - almost certainly due to internal strife, there's the lingering feeling that we're on the verge of a new era, one which is marked by the death of the portal, the "jack of all trade" of the web (ed: ironic given that our name is still ITProPortal).

A web portal is generally the name given to a site that provides services and content in one place, a convenient one stop shop that no longer seems to have its place in a polarised online environment. Like black holes ripping apart existing stars, Google and Facebook are sucking unique visitors from both Yahoo and AOL.

The two web giants proceed differently though; Google provides an array of apparently disparate & compelling services with the biggest being Gmail, Search and Youtube. Facebook on the other hand is a younger version of AOL, a closed, walled garden, which owes its success to its ability to keep its users connected and glued together.

The fundamental difference between the two though is traditional, top-bottom content production. Neither Facebook nor Google produces content per se (although with Google's acquisition of Zagat, that might be disputed) with both relying overwhelmingly on users (e.g. Youtube) to produce and publish content.

AOL wants to become a leading content publisher through the acquisition of Huffington Post, Engadget, Techcrunch while launching innovative publishing schemes like Patch.com, similar to Yahoo's own Associated Content.

But the world, it seems, has moved away from consuming news to living it via Facebook and Twitter, with AOL and Yahoo both increasingly finding themselves on the fringes.