A couple of weeks ago, Paul Hinz, Liferay's Chief Marketing Officer, asked me for my thoughts about what the future of portals holds. I provided a long, drawn-out response which, when boiled down to its essence, comes back to consolidation.
Consolidation of the information that employees and users needs in a single online experience. Consolidation of data from disparate systems into an easy-to-digest format. Consolidation of what is important from all of the noise that is online.
This week, Google Buzz has been all over the news, and from my preliminary usage of it, Google has done an excellent job at consolidating the information that I want/need into a stream of information that is easy to digest. From my Google Reader, I can share information with my contacts. I can see what my contacts find interesting and comment, interact or ignore. Google Buzz intelligently links all of the disparate Google systems into a unified whole. If I post photos into Picasa, they appear in my Buzz stream. If I post a new blog entry on Liferay.com, it appears in my Buzz stream. If one of my colleagues posts a buzz item, I can chat with him inline about the topic.
There is a ton of stuff going on here, and Google is seamlessly connecting their systems into a consolidated whole. Reader, Picasa, Gmail, Google Talk...all tied together in an intelligent and easy-to-use fashion.
Naysayers of Buzz have stated that this is a me-too offering because Twitter and Facebook are doing the same thing. They're not. Entire ecosystems have been built around filling in the blanks that Twitter has left behind (Twitterfeed, Twitpic, Tweekly.fm, Liferay's own TweetRay), and while they are nice, Google has built on the experience and shortcomings of Twitter and has launched something that speaks to the real needs that people have: consolidation of information into something that is useful, usable and ultimately, makes life a little bit better.
Will Buzz remove the need for Facebook and Twitter? Probably not. But, I do think that these two applications will have to react to what Google has created....a portal.