Mashed Portals

April 30, 2007 at 1:45 pm | Posted in portals, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

<homer>Mmmmm …. garlic mashed portals … </homer>

I received a question from a client about whether mashups are the same thing as portals.  I’ve heard other analyst firms say mashups are the next version of portals too, so I wanted to clear up some confusion.  They certainly have some aspects in common and are branches from the same conceptual tree, but they are not exactly the same.

Here is where they are related: they are both methods for building composite applications.  Composite applications are apps made up of existing parts.  Portals let you create composite applications using a screen real-estate metaphor by marrying a set of back-end integration and front-end delivery capabilities that provide information in context, personalized to a user’s role and needs. Other ways to build composite apps include business process management (a flow chart metaphor) and SOA development tools (a wiring diagram metaphor).

Here is where they differ: enterprise portals are defined by a set of infrastructure that is used to deliver contextual websites.  Mashups don’t rely on that concept of personalization (although I’m sure you could put it in there, but it’s not core to the idea), and they don’t have the set of integration into enterprise applications. Another difference is that mashups can overlay information where portals isolate different information in their own square boxes.  The mashups I find most exciting are those where the components are mashed up in the same window, like with Zillow or other apps that lay out information on a map.  There are mashups that don’t rely on blending information from multiple sources in the same window, but those just seem to have the portal UI without the portal infrastructure so they don’t thrill me as much.

All these methods for building composite applications can be useful.  But I’d never tell a client that has gotten into mashups that now they don’t need a portal product.  What if they want to provide personalized access with common infrastructure to get at multiple enterprise applications?  I don’t see a product I’d call a mashup tool doing that anytime soon.  And I wouldn’t tell a client that has a portal product that it can handle all their mashup needs.  A portal product isn’t going to help you lay out your sales data onto a map.



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  1. Nice blog, it helped me to difference between understand mashup and portal.

  2. An interesting article, with a scenario explanation.. I have been hearing a lot and have also gone through wikipedia.. This explanation has helped me a lot.

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