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.
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.
During the session they talked about how the wide availability of broadband Internet service is giving Web users access to more sophisticated applications and content that use voice and video broadcast technology.
A major piece of evidence for this view was the successful global Web broadcasts of the Live 8 benefit concerts. Calacanis and Bankoff contend that Live 8 will lead to an increasing volume of Web broadcasts of a wide range of entertainment and information programs to compete with traditional broadcast outlets for audience attention.
Calacanis focused on the power of blogs to give people who are knowledgeable and passionate about a host of different topics a wide new forum for their views.
In an interview after the presentation Calacanis said that through blogs “citizen journalists are being put at the top level by AOL with professional journalists.”
In fact, he contends that experience has shown that professional journalists dont necessarily make the best bloggers and most bloggers would find it hard to make the transition to the discipline of traditional journalism.
Being passionate about a topic is what drives people to write blogs or they wouldnt go to the trouble, Calacanis notes. Most of the bloggers that Weblogs signs on as free-lance or full-time bloggers were writing about the same topics on their own time for free.
Calacanis said that an increasing amount of blog content will be syndicated and linked to AOL. However, Calacanis never said publicly that he or his organization has been given the task of implementing blogs at Netscape.
Since they are all part of the same corporate family, its apparent that AOL and Netscape can arrange to link to Weblogs content whenever they want, whether or not they officially appoint Calacanis as Netscapes blog czar.
While doubtless some Netscape and AOL users will welcome the addition of some interesting and passionate new blogs, its hard to see how this is going to resurrect Netscape as a Web powerhouse.
Anything that makes Netscape an attractive and valuable stop for Web users is a good move and you have to give AOL points for doing anything that keeps this Web pioneer in the game.
John Pallatto is a veteran journalist in the field of enterprise software and Internet technology. He can be reached at [email protected]