I spoke with Jason Calacanis, who runs the Netscape property, earlier this evening about the tests (Jason wrote about the upcoming changes here). He said that Netscape is seeing heavy usage in the technology and politics categories, but the remaining 31 channels, ranging from Books to Women, are seeing less user news submissions and participation. Since the Netscape home page reflects the most popular stories from all categories at any given time, it is currently very heavily weighted towards tech and politics stories. This focus creates a self propogating system that continues to promote what is already popular.
The new layouts, described in a Netscape blog post, will instead show top stories from a variety of topical channels. The hope is that, once more varied stories hit the Netscape home page, these channels will become more popular.
The most interesting part of the story, however, are the comments users have left to the blog post linked above. When the author wrote “What do you think?” at the end of the post, users took it as an open door to say what they felt about Netscape in general. There seems to be a lot of frustration to vent, with commenters stating things like “It’s getting to the point where I’m just about ready to close my Netscape acct. altogether,” “I hate the new Netscape!,” and “The new Netscape is a big disappointment.” Of the 15 comments posted as of the time I am writing this, only four seem to be on the topic requested by the post author, none were strongly pro-Netscape and 9 were basically asking for the old Netscape portal back.
Welcome to the world of user generated content, Netscape users.