Does HTML5 spell the end of Portals?

The portal has just about always been the future of the web. A home page of information that helps bring links and information together, proponents have stated for more than a decade that the portal represents the key gateway to knowledge. As a concept this will persist, but as a specific technology well I believe soon, it will simply seem like a pathway to the past.

The reason is simple: HTML5. The last twelve months have seen HTML5 transition from a next-generation-maybe to the probable future of the web. Big companies, such as Apple and Microsoft, have been open in their support of the framework. In short, everyone has started to recognise the huge momentum behind HTML5.

But before we look at why HTML5 represents a death knell for yet another legacy technology, let us first understand why people use portals. The first reason is UI consistency; portals provide a nice easy way to provide a common look and feel across all portlets (applications).

The second reason, interoperability. Enterprise portals and public web portals – such as Yahoo! and iGoogle – allow organisations and individuals to run multiple apps, bringing together disparate apps running from different servers into a single browser window. These apps maybe running on very diferent server platforms, but once the app is viewed on a portal page, the user is none the wiser that it is actually coming from a different source.

Third, portals allow portlets to communicate and share data. This is a powerful feature that allows one application to “tell” another about anything. For example you may in one portlet find a person, once selected it “tells” another portlet who the user found. That second portlet might now show that persons account details, without the user having to do anything. Of course that interaction can happen with multiple portlets at the same time, powerful !

So, people use portals for UI consistency, application interoperability and application interaction. But the hype surrounding portals has dived since the dot com days of the late 1990s. Analyst Gartner reports the portal provider market has narrowed considerably, dropping from more than 50 vendors in 2003 to fewer than a dozen in 2010.

This brings us neatly to the future direction of portals – and the inevitable rise of HTML5. Portals are convenient, but they are also a pain. Small app windows mean only limited information can be shown.

Portals came out of an era when running one browser window sapped computing power. Now users can easily run multiple sessions, so why limit your information horizons to a collection of small windows?

HTML5 helps to overcome technical concerns, too. New APIs within HTML5, such as cross document messaging, mean information can be communicated in a secure manner regardless of the source domain. Consistency, meanwhile, can be addressed by CSS, which helps ensure the look and feel of HTML5 documents.

With a free HTML5 offering benefits across the key selling points of the portal, why would users choose to pay for and implement a separate technology? As HTML5 continues its march to glory, they will not.


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3 Responses to “Does HTML5 spell the end of Portals?”

  1. Susan O'Brien Says:

    So are you are saying that if you have portal technology it is a dead end and we should switch soon to HTML5?
    How do you think portal vendors will react to HTML5?

    • dharmeshmistry Says:

      Thanks for reading my article Susan !

      To answer your questions in short: NO I do not think that portal vendors will be killed off by HTML5, most likely what they will do is adopt the relevant features of HTML5.
      So next I guess you’ll be thinking, so what do I mean by “Will HTML5 spell the end for Portals” if it is complimentary to portal technology and not competative?

      Portals come with a whole host of functionality, which I like to summarise the key features in my own simple words as:
      “Roles based access to multiple applications (potentially served by disparate servers) in a single browser window that are consistently branded and able to share data with each other”

      For those that have not yet chosen portal technology HTML5 presents new alternative, espcially for those people that already have security (single sign-on) and content management in place. This is because HTML5 provides new features that enable applications running from disparate servers to communicate with each other, without the constraint of having to be in a single browser window.

      There are other “proprietary” alternatives also for example BackBase and Adobe (Mosaic – Tiles) provide portal capabilities without HTML5 or Portal standards (WSRP etc…). These vendors have innovated around the “concept” of portal focussing hard on compelling “user experiences”. Gartner see’s a new breed of vendor “providing portal-less portals”, analyst Jim Murphy leads the way on this. Mashups, RIA……and now HTML5 provide new options for portal implementation wannabe’s.

      For those that already have portal technology they can choose to wait for HTML5 browser support or use current standards for inter-portlet communication. There have been issues in the past in vendors compliance to standards (JSR168 and 286) and proprietary extensions that lock users into a specific portal server vendor, so it is worth looking at alternatives. Oracle, IBM and Microsoft (even open source vendors like LifeRay) wont just let the new upstarts take their ground, I would expect them to innovate also.

      I hope this answers your question?

      Note the run of HTML5 articles is to provoke thought about how HTML5 could be used as an alternative to existing technologies, as much of what is written about it focuses only about what new features it provides. ;o)

  2. Says:

    Wow, this post is good, my younger sister is analyzing these things,
    therefore I am going to inform her.

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