Is it time to retire the term, “Intranet?”

In 1994, I launched a publication called The Intranet Report. It was a print newsletter! Remember those? The publication was all about this weird new “internal World Wide Web” that people were starting to call “Intranets.”

I was working as the Editorial Director and VP of New Product Development at Ragan Communications, a publishing/conference company specializing in employee communications. My job was to stay current on hot trends, find the best examples, and create content and products and conferences around them.

This wasn’t easy to do with Intranets. Back then, about half the time they were built and owned by IT. Who, needless to say, are most certainly NOT communicators. “Social media” didn’t exist. Two-way communication barely existed. And forget about multimedia, which cost a fortune to produce.

Which is why most intranets sucked out loud. They were, basically, an electronic version of a lousy, one-way print publication: filled with boring corporate content, awful corporate photos, and long, thumb-sucking “Letters” from leadership. Navigation was far from intuitive, and Search was non-existent.

My . . . how times have changed. And I’ve had a front-row seat to the revolution. I am lucky enough to sit as a judge on several annual Intranet contests, and every year I help launch or relaunch three or four intranets for clients. So I see a lot of them. And the best ones have become the core of a solid employee communication strategy.

But should they even be called “intranets?” Why saddle them with such an outdated name? And one that has a horrific reputation with so many employees?

The best intranets are thriving communities. They are filled with collaboration opportunities, two-way conversations, great storytelling, social media elements, great photos and graphics, user-generated content, multimedia, relevant leadership messaging, gamification, and mobile options.

Great intranets are also the gateway to other work tools, such as Salesforce, or Teams. And they serve as knowledge management tools, where employees can easily find the information they need to do their jobs.

In short, a great intranet is NOT an intranet at all. It is the hub of the employee workday, the primary employee communication tool, and an extension of the corporate culture.

So . . . what do we call them? Let’s start a discussion, and see what we come up with. And please don’t say “portal.” That has a worse reputation than “intranet!”

5 responses to Is it time to retire the term, “Intranet?”

  1. Bill Spaniel

    I’ll contribute “intercom.” Yes, It does have “inter” in it, which you may be trying to get away from, but the old definition (a version of which is at https://www. could apply to today’s way of communicating within an organization. Compared to what corporate communications was two decades or more ago, today’s corporate communications is much more a two-way conversation. I’m sure there are better neologisms that can meet your challenge, but good old “intercom” should be in the running.

  2. Paul Flegal

    Not sure why we need a new name for this workplace fixture. Leading organizations come up with their own catchy names and branding to resonate with their audiences. What matters is that people go there in the first place and secondly, can easily find the tools, info and connections they need to help them do their jobs… That said, I think you aren’t far off with the term “hub”.

  3. steve crescenzo

    Good feedback, Bill and Paul.

    Love intercom. And yes, I know companies name their intranets something, but it’s still “the intranet.” And employees don’t like them!!!!


  4. Shannon Van Alsburg

    I think of it as community building regardless of the tool/channel/vehicle I’m using. Having used them for many years in multiple corporations, I’ve learned the name for it doesn’t matter so much and willingness to interact with them varies wildly depending on the audience demographics.

    • steve crescenzo

      Agree, Shannon. The only time I think the name “intranet” comes into play is if people associate with the “old” intranet” . . . and those old intranets were God awful. So the name might carry a negative connotation to it. But you’re right, it’s really just a gateway to the tools people prefer.

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