Netscape Reborn in Blog Era
By Kenneth Li
Thu Jun 15, 5:17 AM ET
Netscape, which started life as a Web browser company and then evolved into a media destination site, is being reinvented once again to merge news reporting and blogs with the latest Internet trends.
On Thursday, the revised Netscape.com will begin a public test of what its new general manager, dot-com news entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, said aims to reinvent the modern news service.
"I don't think journalism is broken at all," Calacanis told Reuters. "But some things can come faster."
Calacanis, 35, made his name as publisher of the Silicon Alley Reporter magazine that documented the New York Internet scene in the second half of the 1990s.
He enjoyed a second act after starting what has become one of the most popular Web journals, gadget blog Engadget.com. He joined AOL after selling his blog company, Weblogs, last year for an estimated $25 million.
Like Calacanis's career, the new Netscape.com marks the rebirth of a first-generation Internet brand. Netscape the brand, like AOL, was synonymous with Web browsing a decade ago.
Netscape, which popularized the World Wide Web with its easy-to-use browser, was bought in 1999 by AOL, now a unit of Time Warner.
After Netscape's browser software was crushed by competition from Microsoft, the brand was reborn first as an Internet portal and again as a discount Internet access provider.
For Time Warner, Netscape's relaunch is another stab at generating more online advertising sales to help offset a steady decline in AOL's Internet access subscription revenue.
The new Netscape.com will have links to news stories grouped under broad categories such as movies, health and fitness.
Popular stories appear higher on the site, ranked according to a "velocity" formula that determines their popularity. The equation takes into account timeliness, number of votes, comments, clicks and forwards, before weighting stories according to how recent the event occurred.
To keep it fresh, a vote that occurred an hour ago is worth more than a vote that happened yesterday, the company said.
Links to stories found anywhere on the Internet, including those from traditional news organizations, are posted on the site by readers. The editors, which Netscape calls anchors, can choose to highlight what they consider important stories.
Editors will comment on stories or do original reporting, Calacanis said, highlighting a key difference from blogs, which are mostly made up of commentary.
For instance, beneath a link to a professional restaurant review was an account of a conversation its editors had with the restaurant's proprietor.
"We don't have to do a level of journalism that you guys do," he said, referring to traditional news organizations. "You guys take it 90 yards, we take it the next 10."
It fits somewhere among the chaotic democracy of user-generated news sites such as Digg.com, where readers determine which stories appear by voting, the hard logic of Google News, which determines relevance with software, and mainstream sites like CNN.com, Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo said.
"Even the best computer systems don't do a great job picking your news for you," Laszlo said, referring to sites like Google News. The new Netscape occupies an "interesting middle ground along the spectrum."
Old Mozilla T-Shirt Image Courtesy of Dave Titus