The Internet consists of millions and millions of websites, most of which remain unknown to regular Internet users. Because of this, websites began to form that acted as gateways to other websites. These gateways became known as web portals and allowed Internet users access to sites they never knew existed. There are different types of web portals, but they each do the same thing: Expose new sites to users based on what the user wants.
Search engines act as one of the most popular types of web portals. All an Internet user has to do is search for a certain topic, issue or problem, and potentially millions of pages show up as a result of the search query. The user then clicks on the link found, and a new site is discovered. Search engines aggregate new sites frequently, which means new sites can show up every day.
Several websites on the Internet act as hubs online. Sites such as Live, Yahoo and Google offer everything from search engines to email accounts to news information. Because these hub sites regulate so much information, new websites show up through at least one of their channels, which means that users can then find a new website, visit the site and determine if the website is good match for their needs.
Web directories are an interesting type of web portal. Unlike search engines and hub sites, a web directory is a database of sites that pertain to a certain topic, such as a celebrity, a theory or a subject in school. Methods on how a website can get into the directory vary from directory to directory, but typically, either a user recommends a particular site for the directory, or the website itself applies to the directory and awaits approval or rejection.
Webrings and Blog Networks
In the earlier days of networks, websites would link together and form webrings or a group of sites that banded together. This is similar to the way a directory works, but a webring is more decentralized and power lies in the group of sites, rather then an overseer of the directory. Webrings eventually died out, but in their place are blog networks, which are groups of blogs that either are part of a larger corporation or a coalition of blogs that share articles from each other's sites.
Recently, social networks such as Myspace and Facebook have emerged into the fray. Both websites allow users to share certain articles, websites videos and photos with their friends. In doing so, they have made these and other social networks into web portals of their own, providing access to websites that other friends approve of or are interested in. Social networks may very well be the next generation of web portals themselves.
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