AOL is turning its Netscape.com portal on its head and embracing citizen journalism in an attempt to take on the growing power of opinion sites, Slashdot and Digg.
Netscape Communications, a division of AOL, says it will be ditching its current tickertape infotainment portal for the new format to attract new Netscape.com visitors and keep them there longer.
Netscape.com takes the wraps off of its beta Thusday. Everyone is welcome to find current news stories, blog entries, or videos anywhere on the Internet and submit content to Netscape.com to be displayed on its front page.
Visitors are invited to vote on current stories, with the most popular stories rising to the top of the list.
Netscape says that a link to the beta site is available Thursday from its main page. The revved version of Netscape.com is slated to go live July 1. Users must register to submit and post stories. The site accepts users with existing Netscape, AOL, and AOL AIM log-ins and passwords.
The new Netscape.com strategy attempts to follow the success of social-bookmarking sites like Digg and Slashdot, both of which rely on visitors to compile lists of links to interesting new articles.
Netscape general manager Jason Calacanis says that, unlike competing social-bookmarking sites, Netscape.com has hired a mix of journalists and citizen journalists to comment on the day's top stories and fact-check them to make sure they are genuine.
The group of Netscape Anchors, as they are called, will also give their editorial opinions on the most popular user-submitted stories and will add links to related Web content, Calacanis says.
Netscape.com will have 30 different content channels, including food, news, travel, sports, celebrity news, and health. The company says that overnight Netscape.com will become one of the largest social bookmarking sites, with 12.5 million visitors a month.
"Think of this as Digg.com with fact checking," Calacanis says. He believes that Web sites that allow people to comment and create content garner more page views than sites that deliver traditional content.
According to estimates available from the Web site ranking firm Alexa, Digg has seen its daily page views jump from 80 million to 320 million since January 2005. By comparison, Netscape.com traffic dropped from 260 million to 180 million in the same time period.
Whether Netscape.com will be an overnight sensation is another question. It will certainly be entering a competitive market. Sites like del.icio.us, Newsvine, and The Personal Bee have launched in the past year.
Netscape hopes to offer more, with tie-ins to a nascent social-networking feature also part of the new Netscape.com plan. Users will be able to create simple profiles and create lists of "friends" with similar interests.
Down the road, an AOL spokesperson said, look for Netscape.com tie-ins to a version of the Netscape browser, Netscape.com toolbars, and direct links to AOL's MySpace-clone AIM Pages.