This is a book about Internet portals in higher education. It grew out of the
editors’ sense that the application of portal technologies to college and
university needs is a much broader topic than can be addressed in a brief article
or conference presentation.
Portals present unique strategic challenges in the academic environment.
Their conceptualization and design requires the input of campus constituents
who seldom interact and whose interests are often opposite. The implementation
of a portal requires a coordination of applications and databases controlled
by different campus units at a level that may never before have been attempted
at the institution. Building a portal is as much about constructing intra-campus
bridges as it is about user interfaces and content. Richard Katz (2000) sums it
up concisely: “A portal strategy is difficult and perilous because many on
campus are weary and suspicious of another new enterprise-wide information
technology initiative, and because portals, by definition require across-theinstitution
agreements on approach and design that are hard to achieve in
loosely coupled organizations like academic institutions.”
So what is a portal? In the broad Internet context, definitions vary widely.
The earliest portals to adopt the name, Yahoo! and Excite, both grew out of the
Web search engine and Web index environments. Interestingly, Stanford
University graduate students designed both.
The designers of Yahoo! wanted “a guide [to the Web],” “a list of
favorites” and “a single place to find useful Websites” (Yahoo! Inc., 2002).
When it was first released, Yahoo! quickly became the place to go to find an
organized view of the explosively expanding universe of online information.