So, what is a Portal, again?  And what is a content management system?  And while we’re at it, what is a web site?

It seems the simplest of terms get very easily confused.  In fact, it might be true that the simpler the term, the more easily confused it becomes.

Everyone used to know what a Portal was.  Or so they thought.  And content management system (CMS), a word still widely used today, was also a tool that could be used in a specific manner.  And somehow, these were at one point, different from just a “web site”.

Well, I am here to contend that they aren’t very different at all.  Like many semantic discussions, you can argue that they mean just about anything.

Here are my definitions:

Portal – a web site that allows a user to log-in and experience something specific to them.

Content Management System (CMS) – a web site that has an administrative interface which allows the content of the site to be managed

Web Site – any set of pages accessed from a sigle domain

Yes, these are generic, as I believe they should be.  The reality is that different people use these words for different things.  I’m sure you know people who call MyYahoo a Portal in the same way they call their corporate Intranet (which consists of static HTML with links to a “Portal”.  Now, even I think that is  a stretch, but I believe my above definitions have legs because they are generic: not specific enough to get a huge amount of hate mail, yet not so broad that anything fits.

The commonality I find interesting is that none of these terms actually “made it” from a marketing perspective in my opinion.  Especially “Portals”…

(more to come soon)…