Keith Teare of Edgeio has a blog post entitled De-portalization and Internet revenues where he writes

7. Publisher driven revenue models will increasingly replace middlemen. There will be no successful advertiser driven models in the foothills, only publisher centric models. Successful platform vendors will put the publisher at the center of the world in a sellers market for eyeballs. There will be more publishers able to make $180,000 a month.
8. Portals will need to evolve into platform companies in order to participate in a huge growth of Internet revenues. Service to publishers will be a huge part of this. Otherwise they will end up like Infospace, or maybe Infoseek. Relics of the past.
9. Search however will become more important as content becomes more distributed. Yet it will command less and less a proportion of the growing Internet traffic.
10. Smart companies will (a) help content find traffic by enabling its distribution. (b) help users find content that is widely dispersed by providing great search. (c) help the publishers in the rising foothills maximize the value of their publications.

I find Keith's post interesting especially when juxtaposed against Fred Wilson's take on how the big Web companies like Yahoo! can relate to this trend in his blog post The De-Portalization of the Internet (aka What I Would Do If I Were Running Yahoo!) where he writes

Today, we shop directly with the Internet merchants we like or we use a shopping search engine to find what we want. We can look for jobs on Indeed, meet people on MySpace or Facebook, find roomates on Craigslist, and use Meebo for instant messaging. It's rarely true that the best of breed service exists on a "portal". The portals continue to buy best of breed services like Flickr, but now they let the service continue to exist on the web with its own look and feel and URL structure.
So if you buy that the web has been de-portalized, what do you do if you run the largest portal in the world? I think its pretty simple actually. Yahoo! needs to offer its users and customers (advertisers) the ability to get the same experience they get on Yahoo! all over the web. They need to stop thinking about keeping their audience on and start thinking about serving their audience wherever they are on the web. They need to stop thinking about selling ads on and start thinking about selling ads all over the web.
So what are some concrete things they need to do? Well first, they need to improve their search service. On a de-portalized web, it all starts with search. I never hear of companies that have 80 percent of their traffic coming from Yahoo! I hear of companies all the time that have 80 percent of their traffic coming from Google. Yahoo! may have 28% of all Internet searches, but for some reason that I am not sure I completely understand, Yahoo! does not generate 28% of Internet traffic.
And Yahoo! needs to get its YPN (Yahoo! Publisher Network) service in gear. They need to offer advertisers the ability to reach people when they are not on Yahoo! They've done some things recently, like the eBay partnership, that suggest they are headed in that direction. But I would urge them to move faster in this direction than they are moving now. It might mean buying some ad networks instead of just investing in them.

This is probably the best advice I've seen on this topic and one I'm sure a lot of folks over here at MSN Windows Live would nod their heads in agreement as they read Fred's advice. The one thing missing from Fred's advice is how exactly Yahoo! should "offers its users and customers (advertisers) the ability to get the same experience they get on Yahoo! all over the web". I'm not sure Fred realizes it but Yahoo! is already halfway there if you look at a number of their initiatives. For one, there are the numerous APIs for Yahoo! services which enable websites and Yahoo! users to incorporate Yahoo! content and services wherever they want on the Web. More importantly, there is now Yahoo! Browser Based Authentication (BBAuth) which is a low cost way for any site on the Web to appear to end users as a member of the Y! network of services since it accepts Yahoo! credentials. Yahoo! is making a lot of the right moves, their big problem now seems to be whether they can evangelize market these initiatives to their customers and other websites in a way that increases adoption. Ideally, they need to show websites how to make that $$$ by partnering with Yahoo!, Google has the advantage in that they have lead with providing $$$ to websites outside their network and now have in that is difficult to beat when it comes to "giving users the Google experience wherever they are on the Web". One could argue that Google Custom Search Engine is a good example of Google embracing the de-portalization trendin the only Google service that end users actually care about.

When it comes to the importance of search, one thing to note is how delicate of a position the major commercial sites such as Amazon and eBay are in. The pattern with the major portals search engines is that they look for what customers are searching a lot for and then provide that as a service. Witness Google's integration of Google Video into the main search page when they realized how much traffic they were sending to YouTube. However the YouTube brand was too strong to be defeated by such tactics and eventually Google purchased the site instead of competing with it. Thus far, Google has embraced de-portalization by providing ads for commercial sites like Amazon but what happens when they realize that they send a ton of traffic to the Amazon and could be getting a cut of the referral fees? I'd keep an eye on Google Checkout if I worked at Amazon or eBay. I suspect that it is just a matter of time before paying the Google tax will be part of the cost of doing business on the Web, in the same way giving Google a cut of your advertising revenues (i.e. being a Google AdSense customer) is almost a given when venturing into the content business on the Web today.

Embracing de-portalization means becoming the ultimate middle man. I remember when erecting Internet Toll Booths was a bad thing. ;)