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 Back to dissertation / research


2.3. Vertical portals: analysis and comparison


Portals on the web are too numerous to be listed and analysed. Nevertheless we have selected the most populars and the most interesting.


2.3.1. Horizontal portals


A horizontal portal is a web site providing a service for any type of community, everyone's welcome. MySpace


According to Alexa Internet, MySpace is currently the world's sixth most popular English-language website and the sixth most popular website in any language, and the third most popular website in the US, though it has topped the chart on various weeks. The service has gradually gained more popularity than similar websites to achieve nearly 80% of visits to online social networking websites. It has become an increasingly influential part of contemporary popular culture, especially in English speaking countries (Wikipedia MySpace).

The big problem is that MySpace pages are designed by individuals with little HTML experience so a very large proportion of pages do not satisfy the accessibility criterias laid down by the W3C (Wikipedia MySpace).

Because MySpace is the biggest SNS (Social Network Service), and also the most horizontal one, we have just noticed that a lot of people are shifting from MySpace to more vertical sites (e.g. college student moving on Facebook) (Boyd 2007).

MySpace is the biggest SNS because a lot of people basically thought that the best is the biggest. But finally users have realized that they want to meet people with common interests so they are moving to more vertical SNSs. This phenomenon should increase when portals will be able to import remote profiles. Facebook


We can't consider Facebook as a vertical web site even if we have seen people shift from MySpace. When we take a deeper look into Facebook we realise that Facebook doesn't provide much more functionalities than MySpace and MySpace is even better in audio and video sharing. Facebook is currently trying to become the biggest SNS, so it has left his first goal: being a social networking site for college students. In my opinion Facebook should keep focused on his first and biggest community: college students. Friendster


Friendster was considered the top online social network service until around April 2004 when it was overtaken by MySpace in terms of page views, mainly because MySpace was much more customizable, handling video and audio. Today Friendster is trying to fill the gap but it's too late. Tribe


Nice web site highly focused on sub communities so this site does not own a specific community but a lot of little communities disconnected. The only good thing is that you can import/export a FOAF file. Cyworld


90 percent of South Koreans in their 20s and 25 percent of the total population of South Korea are registered users of Cyworld, and as of September 2005, daily unique visitors are about 20 million (Wikipedia Cyworld).

The site is highly focused on customization with a miniroom concept which is really interesting. But a business model around customization is really a good idea ? Nevertheless, I don't know the korean culture very well. Orkut


The Orkut case is quite interesting because Orkut is a horizontal portal owned by Google and it occurs that Brazilian Orkut visitors count for 72.5% of the total users (Wikipedia Orkut).

With this dominant Brazilian community, we can't consider Orkut as a horizontal portal anymore. Bebo


Bebo is basically a horizontal portal but it announced on March 2007 that it was the most popular website in Ireland (Wikipedia Bebo). Other horizontal portals studied


The summary table contains a review of Multiply, Yahoo 360, TagWorld and Imeem.


2.3.2. Vertical portals and niches


A vertical portal is built for a specific community. Dodgeball


Interesting service focusing on geolocating users, the service is mainly used through mobiles. Unfortunately, that's the only one interesting functionality. Community Connect (AsianAvenue, BlackPlanet, MiGente, Glee)


Community Connect was basically focused on creating portal for US ethnic groups. They currently publish the three largest niche-targeted communities: AsianAvenue.com (Asian), BlackPlanet.com (African American) and MiGente.com (Latino). They have also created Glee.com (for Gays and lesbians) and Faithbase.com (for Christians).

All sites are using the same template and the same functionalities so they are grouped in the summary table with the name "Community Connect". Ning


With Ning your own vertical portal can be created, restricting registration and selecting your own functionalities. PeopleAggregator


Broadband Mechanics’ PeopleAggregator is an experiment in building social networks around open standards. Five years from now, we may look back on PeopleAggregator and consider it a pioneering product. Because PeopleAggregator is an open source project, we can't really say that PeopleAggregator is a Social Network Service, it's more like a framework based on three main layers: Authentification Layer, Import/Export Layer and a Vocabulary Layer. Nevertheless a full implementation of PeopleAggregator already exists and you can easily create your own customizable portal based on PeopleAggregator architecture. We have studied the main portal: peopleaggregator.net. Other vertical portals studied


The summary table contains a review of Hi5 (Students), Ryze (Business), Studi (European Students), Zaadz (Thinkers, Changing the world), Piczo (kids & pre-teens, mainly UK & Canada), Skyblog (Teens, mainly French)


2.3.3. Analyse When everything becoming vertical


When we take a deep look into horizontal portals we can realize they are not so horizontal as we basically thought, look at Orkut (75% Brazilian), Bebo (Mainly Irish), Cyworld (Korean) and Facebook (College student and high American classes).

This phenomenon is quite new, people are moving from a SNS to another, trying to find the best place for building his network. Biggest horizontal portals are still growing because a lot of people are not yet involved in their "internet life" and most of people are still on MySpace and Facebook. But when you take a look to the vertical niches, you might find some very interesting social community growing up. The case of Community Connect is very interesting, their portal for African American has 16.5 million members and the Latino's portal 2.8 million (as of June 2007), remember what Danah Loyd said 'When the masses adopted social media, they replicated the same social structures present in the offline world' (Boyd 2006). Migration


It is very difficult to see people moving from one service to another. Danah Boyd has worked on that question during several months, specifically relationships between MySpace and Facebook users, and she has discovered that higher American classes are moving on Facebook (Boyd 2007). His article has been discussed a lot on internet and I'm not sure that it is really higher classes; nevertheless there are a lot of people belonging to the same community offline who are gathering on the same portal.

I strongly believe that these phenomenons will increase in the next years, in fact each time a new vertical portal is created. The future of vertical portal is of course to become open social network systems and ease these shifts. We can assume that MySpace and Facebook will stay "close" as long as possible, they won't let their users running away to smaller niches.


2.3.4. Summary table


This table summarizes portals reviewed. Criterias chosen correspond to the concepts pointed out during the research part (See part3).









  • Compliant to the criteria



  • This functionality is not provided



  • Video: the web site uses an external video web site.
  • RSS: the RSS is too basic or hidden in the site
  • The production tool (blog): it uses a plugin or a widget.
  • Import widget: proprietary widgets
  • Exported widget: doesn’t respect W3C standards or difficult to implement.


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