Netscape’s former days of glory are, well, over and AOL’s attempt to emulate Digg.com’s success with the same social-networking features proved a fiasco…
AOL LLC’s venerable Netscape.com site, given an extreme Web 2.0 makeover 15 months ago and transformed into a spiffy social news site, will revert to being a traditional portal again.
In June of 2006, AOL announced it would be adding social news features to its Netscape portal, aiming to tap into the popularity of sites like Digg, Slashdot, and Google News in which the rankings assigned to news stories by the site’s users can determine in part what news items are most prominently displayed.
In an official blog posting Thursday, Netscape Director Tom Drapeau announced the end of the company’s Digg-clone experiment, and said that the site will be revamped, and that visitors have played an important part in this overhaul, which is expected to be rolled out “soon.”
Visitors have been able to submit news stories to Netscape.com, which other visitors then voted on. While the service found a modest following, it never really made an impact against market leader Digg.
“We received some feedback that people really do associate the Netscape brand with providing mainstream news that is editorially controlled,” said Drapeau.
Drapeau said, “We specifically heard that our users do have a desire for a social news experience, but simply did not expect to find it on Netscape.com.”
In short, people want the site to offer a more traditional Web portal experience, with news items chosen by Netscape.com editors instead of visitors, a prominent search engine box and links to AOL and Netscape services and content channels.
“There are some upcoming changes to the Netscape.com site that we hope will improve your experience. We will be providing two different news options for you based on what you have told us over the past few months.”
The initial social-news characteristics that were so similar with those that made Digg.com popular were the idea of former AOL/Weblogs Inc. exec Jason Calacanis, which is currently the head of Mahalo.com.
Although some criticized Calacanis for the switch, it clearly raised the site’s profile and led to Netscape suddenly being mentioned in the same conversations as the more popular Digg.
Drapeau said that Netscape was not giving up on social news, and that the existing social news service would be available at another URL soon.
“We, as a company, remain committed to delivering a compelling social news experience for our users,” he said.
“This move is an effort to make both the former portal experience and the social news experience accessible so that you can decide which you prefer–or, even better, that you want to participate in both …. The ability to post, comment, rate and share the news that is most relevant to you is as important to us as it is to you.”
Interestingly, AOL News apparently relies on the Netscape.com social news site for its section on stories submitted by readers. It is unclear if or how the transformation of Netscape.com will affect AOL News’ user-submitted stories section.
AOL’s announcement is a classic example of “saving face.” Sure it might be moving the social news aggregator to another site, but the reality is that it is moving it away from its Netscape.com URL, which is basically giving it the kiss of death.
AOL did not immediately reply to a request for comment.