AOL is considering killing off the “Digg Clone” social news site that they launched a little over a year ago at Netscape.com, and redirecting traffic to the Netscape portal instead. One source says it’s a done deal. Another says no final decisions have been made. But the Netscape editorial team is rumored to be completely freaked out, and they are starting to talk to outsiders. Either way, take a good look at that screen shot to the right. It may be the last chance you have to see the service.
It’s unclear as to why the site might be scrapped or changed. Netscape.com and netscape.aol.com are controlled by different groups with AOL. At the very least a turf war of some kind is playing a part. And since Netscape’s primary champion, Jason Calacanis, left the company late last year to start a new company, it may leave the social news property without enough clout to protect itself.
See this announcement on Netscape.com that some of the traditional portal/news features are being incorporated into the site. One source says this is a testing of the waters to gather data for a final decision:
Just launched this week, there is a new AOL.com site available for the Netscape Community. Over the past year, there has been a lot of feedback regarding some of the features of the previous Netscape.com site that have gone away, and this site hopes to being some of that functionality back. Check it out!
Update: An AOL spokesperson carefully comments below.
Community has been a core element of both AOL and Netscape since their inception and will continue to be. As the text on the site explains, we wanted to give a more traditional portal alternative to the Netscape users who requested it. You can rest assured that social news will continue to be an important part of what we do.
The message doesn’t address the issue head on. In fact it is sort of content-free. Saying “community has been a core element of both AOL and Netscape since their inception” followed by “you can rest assured that social news will continue to be an important part of what we do.” This is very different from saying that they are not closing netscape.com as we know it. Clarification is requested. See this comment as well from Tom Drapeau, who runs the current Netscape site. He’s also clearly annoyed by this post.
Update2: long Netscape blog post on the subject, still no denial but they are seriously annoyed with this post. Note to AOL: I can’t help it if people inside AOL/netscape are chattering about this to me. And all these vague responses tell me clearly that a real debate is going on internally about the fate of netscape.com. It’s actually a good thing that people are chatting about you. Look at some of the leaks at Google and Yahoo and all the stuff that gets out about them. This means that AOL may be starting to become relevant again to the early adopters. Silver lining and all that.