What a portal should be
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on June 25, 2004
Some eight years back, when the World Wide Web was still young, a local, San Diego-based ISP created and hosted an online guide to San Diego. There were links to and information on local newspaper and TV stations, entertainment outlets, local governments, school districts, and weather.
At the time, HomePort San Diego was along with the Daily Transcript's San Diego Source one of the best starting points for getting around San Diego. The Union-Tribune's SignOn San Diego site wasn't up and running yet, at least not in anything like its present form; Sidewalk San Diego was still getting its feet; and AOL's Digital City for San Diego hadn't yet started, nor had Cox's SanDiegoInsider.com or Time-Warner's RoadRunner San Diego.
Today, of course, SignOn has taken over the role as unofficial San Diego portal Microsoft admitted defeat and shut down Sidewalk, Cox Cable's San Diego home page now simply links to SignOn, DigitalCity is useless and RoadRunner is no more. The North County Times(www.nctimes.com, and my main paying gig in the interests of full disclosure) offers an alternative for folks north of Miramar.
For the first six years or so of its existence, HomePort San Diego was hosted by CTS, and was the default home page for many CTS subscribers and other San Diegans who found it indispensable for quickly finding local resources.
HomePort San Diego creator and CTS tech guru Morgan Davis took HomePort San Diego with him when he was let go last year following the sale of CTS to Hosting.com/Allegiance Telecom, and now off to who knows what corporation following Allegiance's bankruptcy. Morgan (who is famous around these parts for having written 'ProLine," one of the best bulletin board system hosting packages for the Apple ][ when he was still in high school), is now running his own Web hosting/design/development biz at DTL.net and is hosting HomePort, although the HomePOrt URL is unchanged.
Why it still works
While both the North County Times and SignOn offer in-depth guides to the local scene both entertainment and community they can overwhelm a user with information. NCTimes.com and SignOn are no longer portals both have grown into comprehensive information resources, and are very good at what they (we) do.
HomePort San Diego, however, remains a portal a no-longer-hip designation for a Web site that serves as a collection of links organized for quick perusal.
If all you're looking for is a a link to the Chula Vista city hall Web site, you will be able to find it more quickly at HomePort than anywhere else.
Judging by a recent round at Fallbrook Golf Course, Morgan has clearly spent more time in keeping HomePort San Diego up to date than he has on his golf game (and let's not even get started on mine). Today, HomePort San Diego has far more links than it did in 1996 but far more local organizations and agencies are online today than then.
As mentioned at the top of this column, in ‘96 the Web was still relatively young and it wasn't yet clear that a day was coming that everyone would be online.
Yet the organization of the site remains largely unchanged it is a clean, stripped-down site with easy navigation.
It is, short, what a portal should be: Easy to use, and deep in information.
Then and now
Given the increasingly creaky nature of my memory, I decided to look back in time at HomePort San Diego to compare the then and now of it.
Thanks to the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, I was able to see how an early version of HomePort San Diego looked in November of 1996.
And in fact, it appeared and worked largely as it does today.
The same fanciful overview of San Diego County serves as logo, and the site is still organized about the same: Media, Marketplace, Reference, Community, Entertainment. The plain-text menus have been replaced by cute little icons that match the main logo, and the 'courtesy of CTS" tag is long gone, but otherwise the home page remains unchanged.
What has changed is the depth of information presented. I'm still not sure what I have to do to get Morgan to add the North County Times' Web site to the Media page ... hint hint ..., but otherwise the listings here seem far more complete than I've found elsewhere.
Silliness at Microsoft
If you've not heard the latest, then here's a bit of ridiculous legal thuggery that could only comefrom Bill Gates' empire: After successfully suing San Diego-based Lindows Inc. in theNetherlands for trademark infringement (even as U.S. courts question the validity of Microsoft's Windows trademark), Microsoft then filed another lawsuit in the Netherlands, claiming that Lindows was in violation of the court order because their Web pages still had copyright notices in the name of 'Lindows, Inc." Lindows had already changed the name of their product to Linspire in order to be able to sell in the Benelux countries (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, which share a legal jurisdiction), but remains incorporated in the United States, quite legally, as Lindows, Inc.
The Benelux courts tossed Microsoft's second case, and ordered Microsoft to reimburse Lindows' legal fees for that particular hearing.
If, as seems increasingly likely (and as happened when Microsoft trademarked 'DOS"), the Windows trademark is revoked as an illegal taking of a generic term (for windowing environments), it will be interesting to see how the Benelux courts address Microsoft's bullying tactics against Lindows.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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