Over the last year, we've seen a fine-tuning of the "portal" concept on the Internet, accompanied by a frenzy of mergers in hopes of controlling the coveted portal market on the Net. Over this time period, Disney has acquired Infoseek, America Online purchased Netscape, Compaq took control of AltaVista, USA Network procured Lycos, Yahoo! bought GeoCities and Home grabbed Excite all for billion dollar plus price tags.
Why such merger mania over a simple starting point? Because it's just that. Portals are the first website that loads for millions of viewers looking for a user-friendly home base. Each of the above mentioned sites offers plenty of advertising and free services, including Internet resources by category, text-based searching, current events listings and e-mail services.
On the local front, Internet companies are jumping on the portal bandwagon to create websites with Stockton and San Joaquin County in mind. The hope is that users will choose local portals with a familiar landscape over national portals, in the same vein as they choose a local news agency over CNN or USA Today, for example.
California Mall http://www.californiamall.com, owned locally by Maya Marketing, features regional and statewide shopping and information resources. Users can search for websites either by city or category at California Mall. Maya also hosts some great pages with local interest such as the 49er Summer Camp, sf49erscamp.com.
Virtual San Joaquin, virtualsanjoaquin.com, is another regional portal, owned by Internet 5 Consulting, that adds the local angle to their site. Touted as "California's San Joaquin Valley Home Page", Virtual San Joaquin sports a classic portal look with news headlines, search features, and free e-mail accounts. Marketing aspects include "Stuff from around San Joaquin County", that give it a comfortable, neighborhood feel.
The City of Stockton "official" website" is also a good starting point with information about services and current events as well as quick links to other Stockton resources. Two companies 4Stockton.com and InStockton.com are actually out-of-towners trying to capitalize on our local portal market. 4Stockton.com is part of 4Anything.com out of Wayne, PA that appears to index a combination of our Yellow Pages and Internet sites to create the illusion of a local home page. InStockton actually hails from Pleasanton, CA but it's seriously "InProgress" since none of the links as yet contain any content. Nice graphics, but nary a local listing.
StocktoNet, the "Stockton, California Home Page" is the only local portal that is truly local. The categorical searches ferret only those entries in StocktoNet Directory, which is broken down into either Business/Community or Personal categories. What's really slick about StocktoNet is that users can add to or edit their own entries in the StocktoNet Directory at will.
StocktoNet also hosts the Community Calendar, in collaboration with the Stockton-San Joaquin Convention and Visitors Bureau. Like the directory, the Community Calendar is also interactive, allowing users to freely add their own events to the calendar.
You can pick and choose among popular portals and change them with just a few mouse clicks. If you're a Netscape user, choose Edit, Preferences and type the URL of your desired home page in the Location text box. Click the Home button on your toolbar at any time to return to your home base. Internet Explorer users will find similar options by choosing either View or Tools (depending on the browser version), then Internet Options. If "Home" gets boring, you can move again.
Stockton-San Joaquin portals as yet may not be billion dollar buyout candidates, but the local guise creates a feeling of neighborhood and community that's familiar and comforting in the often strange and bizarre Internet world.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company,
Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached
by e-mail at email@example.com or
by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the
Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com.
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