Colin Delany July 17, 2006

A Remembrance of Portals Past

Last week’s launch announcement for Hotsoup.com, particularly Howard Kurtz’s profile in the Post, cast my mind back to some other erstwhile political portals that have come and gone in the past 10 years.

Kurtz mentions Grassroots.com and Vote.com, each of which is still with us but as a much different (and infinitely less ambitious) proposition than it began. But remember Politics.com, whose url supposedly cost a cool $1,000,000 back around 1999? Voter.com? Votenet.com? Policy.com?

These sites, and I’m sure a lot more whose names escape me, foundered in part because they tried to be THE online destination site for politics and/or policy, following the classic dot-com-boom-era portal model.

The problem is, the internet naturally splits into niches, the endless segments of the Long Tail, and people are going to go to the precise spot that meets THEIR needs. One-armed transgendered Republicans with a flair for leather? I’m sure there’s a group somewhere for them, and they’ll feel most comfortable around like-minded folk than on some site that’s a jumble of opinions.

The main political destinations these days are straight news sites like CNN, Reuters, the Times and the Post, or online opinion sources/communities like Daily Kos and Instapundit, or they’re advocacy/activist sites. I’m afraid that most of us don’t WANT to have our opinions challenged.

Now, Hotsoup.com’s goals seem entirely worthy to me: of course we’d like to see people come together across the ideological gorges that separate us as a people and as a species. And Hotsoup certainly has a good press team: getting hits in the AP, Reuters and the Post is not too shabby for a site that won’t launch until October. I’m just not sure that the internet, a medium that thrives on the infinite fractures among us, is a place where those gaps are going to be bridged. A nice day in the park with our neighbors is more likely to do some good, as long as they’re safe and from our own gated community, of course. Oh, wait….

cpd

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