Social Networking Wont Lift Netscape from Web Limbo

Opinion: Blogs would be a welcome new addition to the Netscape Web portal. But it's hard to see how turning the site into a social networking hub would resurrect the Internet pioneer from its present position as an also-ran.

Talk in the industry that Time Warner will try to revive its Netscape division by turning it into a social networking hub sounds like another forlorn hope.

Diehard Netscape fans can never fully suppress the dreams that Netscape will somehow rise again to regain its rightful place at the top of the World Wide Web.

But the fact remains the Netscapes owners and handlers were as much to blame as Microsoft that Internet Explorer quickly bulldozed the browser pioneer from the top spot.

There were times when Netscape seemed paralyzed as it watched Microsoft leverage the market penetration of Windows to turn Explorer into the top browser in the world. It would have taken some very nimble moves for any company to have fended off the Microsoft onslaught when it set its sights on the browser market.

But it might have done more to speed up Netscape updates to keep to keep ahead of Explorer in terms of features and performance.

It might have done a better job of forming industry alliances that would have given it a stronger market position than was possible from it status an initially successful and innovative browser company.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about the browser distribution deal Netscape won with Hewlett-Packard.

Netscape survives as a mere shadow of its former glory as an also ran in the browser and Web portal sectors.

It could continue to survive for years to come as a burned-out star in the Time Warner business galaxy. But the constant demand for business and profit growth doesnt allow any organization to rest in the comfort of the status quo.

The idea of revitalizing Netscape by attaching it to a social networking, blogging, news and information exchange portal is far from original concept. It doesnt look on the face of it to be a surefire formula for pulling Netscape out of the shadows.

A report running on the ValleyWag Web Site says that that Time Warner plans to appoint Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs of Culver City, Calif., as a new director of Netscape. Weblogs is owned by American Online. Both Netscape and AOL are owned by Time Warner.

Its not clear why Calacanis would be given the task of turning Netscape into a social networking or blogging portal based on the sketchy rumors that have circulated on the Web.

Netscape already has a number of typical social networking features found on every major Web portal—personals ads, special interest groups, e-mail--not to mention pix of the top 10 biker babes and musics top 10 bad boys.

But its true that blogs are conspicuously missing from Netscapes home page. Its just hard to imagine that blogs in and of themselves are going to trigger some kind of market renaissance that will prompt Web surfers to switch their home pages to Netscape.

Calacanis and Jim Bankoff, AOLs executive vice president of programming and products, did a tandem presentation on "disruptive programming" at the VON (Voice Over Network) Spring 2006 Conference in San Jose the week of March 13.

Next Page: Blog power.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s eWEEK.com since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...