Netscape’s Calacanis has the last laugh?

A couple of months ago I thought the new Netscape was doomed.

Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. fame was taking a grand old dame of online news and giving her a social news facelift: lifting the everyone’s-an-editor philosophy from Digg and delicious and transforming an informative-if-stodgy site into what I saw as a wanna-be web 2.0-ish social media site.

Then he raided the Digg, Newsvine, Reddit larder: promising their top contributers cash for posting news to Netscape instead. Reaction was fairly vociferously negative from Digg and others.

Some thought it would never work. Others thought it was just smart business, including Scott Karp and Nicholas Carr.

I’m starting to think they might be right. And the recent tempest in a Digg teacup over the Digg algorithm adds fuel to that fire.

Due to a widespread perception that Digg is controlled by a small but influential cabal of users, Kevin Rose announced that Digg is changing its front page algorithm. Which promptly touched off a super-user rebellion … and interesting reflections on what a Digg without top users would look like. Top Digg users removed their user icons in protest.

All of which makes Calacanis’ Netscape moves look good: user-focused, friendly to the super-user, and appreciative of top contributors. Add to that increased traffic of late, and things are looking good.

I think that what we’ve seen recently from the team is that the way to win online is to learn: learn fast, adapt, keep learning … and make changes based on what you’re learning. Adapt faster than your competition, and you’re more likely to win.

Which is precisely what Calacanis has brought to Netscape.

Of course, this is not really the last laugh. It’s not even the 7th inning stretch.

But it is a good indication that Calcanis is more clueful than widely given credit for, knows where he’s going, and can take what many thought was a moribund Netscape web property to a new promised land.

[tags] calacanis, netscape, digg, reddit, social media, news [/tags]

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for the positive feedback. We’ve got a long way to go with Netscape to be honest.

    We started with the 80% (the consumption class).

    We hired the 1% (the creative class) with our Navigator program.

    So, that left us with the 19% that we call the “contributing class.” The contributors are the folks who post comments, vote, add friends, and send site mail messages to each other.

    The 1% are the role models for the 19%, and the 19% come from the masses. So, we are involved in a program of building our “middle class” right now. I’d say we have 1/3rd of the middle class built out, and by the end of the year we should have the other 2/3rds.

    Building an online community is a lot of work, and as we’ve seen with the digg-implosion it’s not easy. Frankly, I think digg should do what we’ve done and pay the 1% to be the leaders of their site, not make their votes count for less.

    The 1% are the life of these sites and pissing them off–and taking away their powers–is a HUGE mistake. You should reward the 1% for their work, not punish them like Kevin is trying to do.

    However, I could be wrong. Maybe Kevin’s plan to make everyone equal–despite the fact that people’s performance is not equal–will create some new social system we’ve never seen before. I doubt it will work however.

    If I’m a 1%er and the site I love keeps coming up with ways to punish me for my skills what am I going to think of that site? Will I want to stay there?

    It’s like the NBA changing the rules because Michael Jordan has a better drive to the basket than everyone else, or because Shaq is so great in the paint. You start changing rules to handicap your best players and people get really upset.

    At the end of the day these are complex problems, and I don’t claim to have the answers to all of them. I think Kevin will work things out at digg over time, and they’ve done a great job up to this point. I’m rooting for them to figure it out frankly… digg and Netscape’s fates are joined at the hip to a certain extent.

  • I have been building a community based site in Denmark a couple of years ago – and can just verify thats arent a thing you just do for fun – it’s full time work.

    Adding new rules to punish someone arent a very good idea – I did it twice in trying to save the comminity – but i wherent any fun to deploy. But it worked out later on.

    (and even my 25k users seems small to the numbers you guys are used to đŸ˜‰