Leader: Amazon will be next to snap up a portal

Merger fever is sweeping the world's largest corporations with Internet giants leading the charge. We have already seen the union of AOL/Netscape, and yesterday @Home and Excite tied the knot.

Merger fever is sweeping the world's largest corporations with Internet giants leading the charge. We have already seen the union of AOL/Netscape, and yesterday @Home and Excite tied the knot. Jesse Berst surveys the portal scene, asking who will be next to wed and who'll still be a player in 2000...

By now you've heard about the $6.7 billion deal that marries Excite's portal and @Home's cable-based Internet access. Click for more. And about NBC and CNet launching a new portal aimed at users of ADSL and other high-speed, phone-based Internet services.

What's next? And who's going to win once the dust settles? Analysts think Microsoft will buy Lycos. But there's a blockbuster in the wings that could be even more powerful... Amazon and Lycos. That's right. E-commerce pioneer Amazon.com may take its overpriced stock and snap up a portal, possibly Lycos. Combine Lycos with Amazon's customer base and the calendaring services of its PlanetAll subsidiary, and you have a super-portal that could be first to truly cash in on personalized ecommerce. Even if Amazon succeeds in its super-secret efforts to buy a portal, it will face tough competition. In order of size and muscle:

America Online: Brand leader and audience leader with great content, commerce and community. Has the best interface (of a bad lot). Poor personalization and a proprietary platform are stumbling blocks. Main challenge is merging/managing multiple brands -- AOL, CompuServe, Netcenter.

Yahoo: Strong brand and strong personalization features, plus popular search and navigation tools and a growing e-commerce function. But this arrogant giant is beginning to slip against rivals and has no (visible) broadband strategy. (Disclosure: ZDNet parent Softbank is an investor in Yahoo.)

MSN/Lycos: If Amazon.com can't corral Lycos then Microsoft probably will. A deal would create a rich customer base -- MSN, Microsoft.com, Hotmail and Lycos. Already a leader in personalization, MSN has strong content and ecommerce with Expedia, Car Point, Investor.

@Home/Excite: Richest customer base with @Home, Excite and AT&T customers/subscribers. A leader in broadband rich media marketing, ads, personalization and services; can add phone service over cable. Like AOL, offers full soup-to-nuts menu -- Internet access, content, commerce, community, services. Lacks brand awareness and compelling content.

Go Network: Will distinguish itself as a content-oriented destination with rich fusion of ABCNews.com, ESPN.com, other Disney properties. Has Infoseek's excellent directory and search services. Plus Mickey's promotional genius.

NBC, Snap: Late to the game, but can try for early lead in broadband content with new partnership with phone companies. There are other portals and portal wanna-bes that are candidates to buy or be bought, including AltaVista, McAfee Online, PointCast, GeoCities, The Mining Company and HotBot. Who will be the No. 1 portal site 12 months from now? I predict America Online will stay on top, followed by Amazon, Disney and Microsoft.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All