In an attempt to revive the flagging Netscape brand, AOL has begun to turn the Netscape portal page into a news site where users submit and vote on news stories and editors provide direction.
Although Netscape remains a popular brand, its visibility has shrunk over the last few years. The site had 11.4 million users in May, down from 15.4 million a year earlier.
In its latest incarnation, Netscape is a hybrid news site combining elements of traditional editor-driven news and user-submitted stories. Users vote for stories and for other users, and the most popular stories percolate to the top of each category page.
The site is also hosted by eight “anchors,” who choose the sites main stories and comment on them. AOL is also employing 15 part-time specialists to help fact check some stories.
The decision to retain some editorial control over the site is likely a way for AOL to use social media tools without risking some of the dangers of crowd-driven news. The editor-driven policy is also likely to sit well with advertisers.
The new Netscape is driven by Jason Calacanis, who sold his company Weblogs, Inc. to AOL last year for a reported $25 million.
AOL bought Netscape for $4.2 billion in 1999. Months later AOL merged with Time Warner in a deal valued at $165 billion. When the deal was made, the two companies had a combined market cap of $350 billion. Time Warners value today is only about $71 billion.
AOL is also working on a social networking site called AIM Pages, which will compete with sites like MySpace and Facebook.