Portal Users: Who Are They?

Portals have been at the center of Internet news throughout the past 12 months. Partnerships, mergers, and new players have transformed Internet search engines into places where users get their news, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather.

CyberDialogue took a look at the major portals and exactly what sets them apart from each other. The answer lies in their users.


According to CyberDialogue, Yahoo draws many of the Internet’s newcomers. In December of 1998, 8.4 million users set Yahoo as their default home page. Yahoo garners the largest number of users in almost every major content and service category, according to CyberDialogue. WebSideStory found that Yahoo generates nearly half of all Internet traffic from search engines (see table).


AOL.com has the highest percentage of female (56 percent) and married (67 percent) visitors of any portal on the Web. More than half of the users of AOL’s service are female, and they aren’t the Web newbies they used to be. They now average 2.4 years of online experience. As for the portal AOL.com, it has the second highest percentage of children of the major portals (behind MSN), and it has the lowest online spending average of all major portals. Users of AOL.com’s financial services tend to be novices.


[IC_ARTICLE_OBJECT [SHOW IC_Article_ID] “table1”] Microsoft’s portal entry, MSN, has the second highest percentage of women at 50 percent, according to CyberDialogue. It also has the highest percentage of ethnic minorities at 32 percent. MSN users spike on software and travel purchases, but they have the lowest median income of all major portals and spend the least amount ($300 per purchaser).

A look at Microsoft’s corporate Web site finds 80 percent of its visitors go there for business reasons, and two-thirds of them are men. Users of the corporate site are, not surprisingly, likely to purchase PCs, software, and consumer electronics.

Netscape Netcenter

Now part of AOL, 30 percent of Netcenter users purchased online in 1998, according to CyberDialogue. Netcenter users spend an average of $600 per purchaser. Almost 6 million people set Netscape as their default home page in 1998.


The Infoseek/Go partnership, backed by Disney, draws more young single people by percentage than any other portal. Only Lycos users are more likely to go online while traveling. Go leads the way in music and online game players, as well as book buyers. Thirty-nine percent of Go users purchased online in 1998, according to CyberDialogue.


According to CyberDialogue,Excite’s users are 60 percent male with a median age of 41 years. They are affluent, well educated, and score high in sports, news, travel, insurance, and healthcare usage. Forty-two percent of them purchased online in 1998.

Alta Vista

Alta Vista, CyberDialogue found, has the best-educated visitors of the major portals. Their median age is 40, they are experienced Internet users, and 78 percent of them go online for business. CyberDialogue says Alta Vista has peak concentrations of online bankers, investors, and those seeking information on products. Alta Vista also has the highest percentage of online buyers at 53 percent.


Lycos users are the oldest of the major portals at 42 years old (median age). Lycos has the second highest percentage of shoppers at 50 percent, and the highest personalization rates. They are also likely to use movie content, and visit music sites.

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