1) Portal is a term, generally synonymous with gateway, for a World Wide Web site that is or proposes to be a major starting site for users when they get connected to the Web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site. There are general portals and specialized or niche portals. Some major general portals include Yahoo, Excite, Netscape, Lycos, CNET, Microsoft Network, and America Online's AOL.com. Examples of niche portals include Garden.com (for gardeners), Fool.com (for investors), and SearchNetworking.com (for network administrators).
A number of large access providers offer portals to the Web for their own users. Most portals have adopted the Yahoo style of content categories with a text-intensive, faster loading page that visitors will find easy to use and to return to. Companies with portal sites have attracted much stock market investor interest because portals are viewed as able to command large audiences and numbers of advertising viewers.
Typical services offered by portal sites include a directory of Web sites, a facility to search for other sites, news, weather information, e-mail, stock quotes, phone and map information, and sometimes a community forum. Excite is among the first portals to offer users the ability to create a site that is personalized for individual interests.
The term portal space is used to mean the total number of major sites competing to be one of the portals.
2) In fantasy games, science-fiction, and some "New Age" philosophies, a portal is a gateway to another world of the past, present, or future, or to an expanded awareness.
3) In 3-D graphics development, portal rendering is a technique that increases the effect of realism and speeds up presentation.