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Any Portal in a Data Stormno - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut                       back to TTN home page
by Joe Harkins
- Sep 23, 98

    Portal is the buzzword of the day in the Internet business. It refers to the fact that you can configure your computer to display any web site as the first page when you start up your Internet browser. Directions for doing that are below.

   
AOL NetFind and Netscape Netcenter already collect many millions of dollars per month from advertisers who want a chance to tug at your sleeve when you first log on to the Internet. Many of us are willing to put up with those commercials if they support a service that reduces the overwhelming confusion of the Internet.

    Virtually every site that used to call itself a "search engine" (
Snap, Lycos, Excite, AltaVista, etc.) has been redesigned to serve as a portal page by adding carefully cataloged links. So what have portals got to do with using the Internet for planning travel? A lot!

    Many travel services that had been available only separately on scattered travel web sites are now combined on the major portals. That's made for plenty of synergy.

   
Excite is a good example. Its main selections of travel services are provided by Preview Travel and City Net. You get excellent low airfare info, car rental data and links to Fodor's Guides plus hotel reservations online.

   
City Net provides Excite with an Event Finder. Simply plug in a date and a city. You'll get back details of what's on tap there at that time. You may specify a particular event, such as a concert or dance recital. The system will report where and when it takes place, as well as create a calendar of other events and performances in that location. Pretty sophisticated stuff!

   
Excite reached out to Travelon for adventure travel packages to Turkey and Africa. Travelon also offers an efficient "resort finder."

    Most portals, including
Yahoo, let you customize your page so that the travel info it displays is exactly what you want to see. Specify key destinations and you'll be notified when airfares to them are on sale. The weather report for your favorite destination can greet you every morning.

    As a result of all this consolidation, independent travel services web sites are fighting back. Some are so well done, they'd make excellent portals in their own right.

    One of best is from my favorite fearless curmudgeon,
Arthur Frommer. His site offers 6,000 handsome and exceptionally well-organized pages of bargain price tickets and candid travel commentary. Sign up for the best free daily travel newsletter on the Internet.

   
Atevo has feature articles, guidebooks, maps, driving directions, photos and more. Their World Guides are more comprehensive than many you'll find in print.

   
1Travel justifies it's name with a unique service. Consistently low airfares are available from so-called consolidators who buy up blocks of otherwise empty flights and sell them at huge discounts. However, consolidators are not always dependable. 1Travel screens the consolidators and arranges firm prices. This is a genuine bargain source.

   
BizTravel rightfully calls itself "The Internet company for the frequent business traveler." That challenge is well met by The Trip which offers airport navigation guides and an amazing new service. Send them your flight details before you board. When your plane lands and you head off for the luggage carousel, The Trip automatically sends email to three addresses you've specified, telling them you've arrived.

    No listing of travel portals would be complete without mention of the one built and rebuilt by Microsoft's
Expedia. Unfortunately, the site no longer is what it was even a year or two ago. The original vision was for an overly ambitious affiliated site called Mungo Park. When that proved to be ahead of its time and its budget was out of control, the plug was pulled and the rest of the Expedia site seemed to deflate.


Extra Links:
(
*The mini-reviews below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the available space in this week's edition.)

International Travel Network

ITN is not a well known brand name but if some of the graphic elements on the page seem familiar it's because you've seen them on sites where ITN is the behind-the-scene supplier. They claim to be the supplier of the computer services for 95% of all online flight reservations.

The Discovery (Travel) Channel

This would have been a more highly rated site for this category, especially for family oriented travel, except for the annoying programming that causes the site to open a new window every time you click on a new page. That uses up computer memory.  After a few pages are opened, you may wonder why your computer seems to have slowed to a crawl. Hasn't anyone there every heard of the "page default" command in HTML code?

Go-Explore Destination Guides

Even though this site currently is limited in what it offers, it has great promise as a travel portal. Users are being invited to help define the site's features.

Here's how to set the first page you see when you open your browser:

Microsoft Internet Explorer
1) open MS / IE
2) go to the page you want as your portal (or "home") page
3) from the top line menu, select View
4) a vertical menu will open
5) scroll down to "Internet options" and click on it
6) General dialog box opens, click on "Use current".

Netscape Navigator:
1) open NN
2) go to the page you want as your portal (or "home") page
3) from the top line menu, select "Edit"
4) a vertical menu will open
5) scroll down to "Preferences" and click on it
6) in dialog box click on "Use current page."

Opera
As an alternative to bloated and slow Netscape and Explorer, Opera is "The Little Engine That Might." It's lightweight and blazing fast at delivering pages, especially in older computers. The display is slightly quirky, but you can get used to it. Opera also has the courage to ask users to pay a modest fee after a free 30-day evaluation. Click here to check it out.

To install a portal, from Opera's top line menu:
1) select Navigation.
2) from the vertical menu, select "Set Home"
3) in Global field, type the address of the portal
4) click OK.


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