I've used the term "Open Portal" to describe what I believe to be an inevitable transformation of the web portal business to a model which enables the syndication of programming (both hosted software and traditional content) to 3rd party web publishers. For Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Google or Ask, there are far more incremental impressions (and ad revenue) to be had distributing user experiences outside their four walls then by building new ones within their respective domains.
It's hard to say who among the the major players will be the first to fully embrace an Open Portal model, but it's coming. And it must be important because I just read about what's next in the NYTimes. :-) They may call it "Mash-Ups" and "Cloud Computing", but a rose by any other name...
Anne Eisenberg NYT 9-2-07: “Now mash-ups are poised to hit the mainstream, and to spread well beyond music. Yahoo, I.B.M., Microsoft and others are creating systems to let ordinary people who’ve never been near a Java class create useful computer applications by combining, or “mashing up,” different online information sources.”
John Markov NYT 9-3-07: "This week, it plans to turn that strategy upside down, making available free software that connects its Windows operating system to software services delivered on the Internet, a practice increasingly referred to as “cloud” computing. The initiative is part of an effort to connect Windows more seamlessly to a growing array of Internet services."
Old schoolers like NBC, CBS and ABC have had the syndication model figured out for a long time (let's leave aside the issue of ITunes distribution for the moment), and AOL finally did a Gorbachev with their own walls. But there's still a large gap between clouds, pipes and mash-ups...and an Open Portal architecture that would allow the big players an opportunity to earn real estate across the entire internet by partnering with willing web publishers.