Vortals typically provide news, research and statistics, discussions, newsletters, online tools, and many other services that educate users about a specific industry.
As the Web becomes a standard tool for business, vortals will join and maybe replace general portal sites like AOL and Yahoo! as common gateways to the Internet.
"Vortal" is a contraction of "Vertical Portal," and is loosely defined as a web site that specializes in a particular topic containing content, links, and searchable directories. Synonyms include "specialty search engines" and "topical search engines."
The ongoing shakeout of Internet companies, and especially publishers, has led many firms to focus their business on what they do best (be it content, technology, or services) and trim back their non-core services, hence the rise of the vortal. While all of us are familiar with the more traditional portals such as Yahoo!, AOL, or MSN, vortals are still relatively unknown. Much of the lack of brand power is attributed to the fact that they serve niche audiences rather than mainstream ones.
The major difference between a vortal and a search engine is that with a vortal the user can only search within the narrow subject matter that the site covers. This is in direct opposition to the large portals, which seek to be all things to all people. The benefit of using a vortal is that the vortal is likely to have more in-depth coverage of the topic in question than a traditional portal - so you'll spend less of your time sifting through non-relevant returns. Another positive is that many vortal sites incorporate community-building features, which strengthen their appeal and extend the depth of the information they provide, thereby heightening the experience.