Few brands have gone through more reinvention in less than a decade then Netscape. Since it was acquired by AOL in 1999 (primarily for its browser technology) the online website seemed to be constantly in flux; used as something of an sandbox for testing new concepts. In 2005, flash animation was the technology du jour. By 2006 it was abandoned and replaced with social news format similar to the now popular Digg. Now, another year later, they’ve scrapped that too and are backtracking and reinventing again.
On September 6th, Netscape director Tom Drapeau announced on the site’s blog that sweeping changes were on their way and that the site would revert to some form of portal. The crux of the message was, social news works but is confusing their core audience. More succinctly, the social news features, while popular for many, were confusing for more. Over the past year, Netscape’s traditional audience wasn’t adapting or embracing the new format. Most metrics showed U.S. visitations dropping by 50%. So back to the drawing board.
The solution being implemented is to separate the two concepts in to two different sites and try again. Netscape, as a brand, and site destination, will revert to a portal format similar to Yahoo or MSN (A preview of the new sites format can be found here). Editorial staff will choose the content. The social news format, or news aggregation concept, where users submit content and influence its exposure will be grafted into a new site. Tuesday, that new site was named on the company’s blog. It will be called “Propeller;” aptly named on the logic that they’re hoping this effort “will fly” and not crash and burn.
No launch date for the new site has been announced but the likelihood is it’ll be up soon. The company doesn’t want to lose further audience share with downtime or an incomplete offering.