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Earlier this week, I took a look at the social news service Propeller and wondered if the service was coming in for a landing. Since that post, one of Propeller’s users submitted the CN story to Propeller and I thought it might be interesting to see what we got from the submission.
The story was posted on Propeller 27 hours ago as of the time of this blog post. The story (as seen below) has received:
- 45 props (these are the up votes)
- 2 drops (I guess these are like down votes)
- 60 views listed on Propeller (not sure if this is how many people visited the page on Propeller or something else?)
- 247 comments!
I count 16 total pageviews in my analytics software using the propeller.com referral domain. This means that nearly none of the people who commented on the story actually read the story. This is an issue for most social news sites – and I think will be an issue for Buzz as well. Outbound traffic is the only real measure for a social news site – the more traffic that the service sends out, the more people want to invest in it.
Can you believe it’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since the social news site Propeller went live? It’s even more amazing that the “new” Netsape launched almost four years ago! In case you aren’t familiar with the story of Netscape and Propeller, here’s a brief history lesson. When now Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis sold his blogs to AOL, he became the product manager for a new social news site within the AOL network named Netscape. Yes, the same Netscape that in the early Internet was a Web browser. Soon thereafter Calacanis left AOL and Tom Drapeau took over as Netscape Director. We interviewed Tom shortly after he accepted his new role.
Tom noted that Netscape had a crew of “scouts” who were paid for, “several activities, including posting stories, engaging in thoughtful conversations in comment threads, and keeping an eye out for spam.” This made Netscape a bit different than Digg although Netscape was called a clone of Digg since day 1.
In September 2007, Propeller took flight and the social news site took the place of the Netscape site. Many wondered if the new location might hurt the overall ability to brand the social news service. While lots of people called Propeller a Digg clone, many (including myself) had high hopes for the service.
As many of you know, the Netscape browser is being retired and development will no longer continue. Netscape has posted several messages on the blog supporting Mozilla as an alternative and has provided directions on how to make the transition. Tonight they have added Flock to the recommended browser list.
From the Netscape blog:
Previously, the Netscape Team recommended that Netscape browser users adopt Firefox as their next web browser. We would also like to suggest Flock as another alternative to the Netscape web browser. Flock is a web browser that combines all of the advantages of Firefox with the addition of social integration. If you are looking for your next browser and are interested in Firefox with social integration, give Flock a try.
One of my favorite reads is the good doctor (yes, a real doctor), Tony Hung. His commentary and opinions are almost always on point and accurate. However last night he wrote a piece that had an incorrect diagnosis. He should know that a doctor can’t just look at a chart and know what’s wrong without talking to the patient (or in this case investigating the cause). Unfortunately, Duncan at TechCrunch immediately posted about it as well, thereby furthering the incorrect diagnosis.
Here is Tony’s analysis:
About a month ago, I wrote about how Netscape dumped its social news component into its own site, Propeller.com and wondered rhetorically how it would turn out — with the subtext being, perhaps, how *Netscape* would really fare now that its social news component was on its own. Well, a month has come and gone, and I think that if Alexa is any indication (and yes, it certainly has its problems), the answer might be “substantial”.
He then shows the following chart to backup his "substantial" claim:
So what did Tony miss?
- Naturally when you switch domains traffic to the former will decrease
- If we look back before Netscape became Jason’s social news failure, those people who liked the old Netscape left. They wouldn’t have any reason to return after the site moved to the Propeller domain.
- And lastly, and most importantly, netscape.com does not exist anymore – it redirects to aol.com – hello drop. Rogelio Bernal Andreo, coRank CEO agrees. His comment on TechCrunch, "I just noticed that nestcape.com now redirects to netscape.aol.com. So I guess the whole argument is just flawed then. It doesn’t take into account what I mentioned before, and it doesn’t consider that netscape.com is now a redirect to netscape.aol.com."
For Immediate Release:
To: Tom Drapeau and AOL Executives
From: Allen Stern
Please accept this notice of my disappointment in the launch today of your Propeller product. Before I get into my concerns and issues with Propeller, I want to say that I have been quite loyal to AOL since I started using the product in 1990-1991. I still have the same email as I had then and have stuck with you through thick and thin. My first AOL bill was $450.00 and I never burned one of those thousands of spam CDs I received in the mail over the years.
When you guys allowed Jason Calacanis to talk you into changing Netscape into a social news rating service, I gave you a chance. Even when others called you a clone of Digg, I stood by you. Even when Jason ran away from the drowning ship and left everyone else to drown and die, I still offered suggestions for improvement.
When Techcrunch writers believed that the site was going to close and Tom Drapeau said it wasn’t closing, I offered Tom an interview to air his side of what was going on and coming up.
When the announcement came out that the name was changing to Propeller, many bloggers said it had already failed. I stood strong against Duncan for example and said let’s give AOL/Propeller a chance. Even when Robert Seidman told me I was basically a moron for even thinking you could offer something innovative, I told him let’s wait and see. I did note one important thing which is that you should absolutely not put up the same site just on a new domain.
Yet today I see you launched (or is it re-launched?) the Netscape site on Propeller with just a change of logo. Not one change. Now Tom talks about upcoming changes on the blog, but why not hold back on a launch and wait until the changes are ready? A bad first date means no second date my friend.
Marshall and Netscape scout Muhammad say there is more coming, but is it too late? Why was the change so critical to make today? Was someone upstairs in HQ looking for the Netscape.com domain to be switched asap?
I am disappointed with your decision and while I will continue to use the AOL product, I will never again stand up as a Propeller/Netscape defender.
I guess I shouldn’t have expected more from a company who gave out a CD case to the TechCrunch audeince where almost everyone has an iPhone or iPod.
I look forward to your response.
The Netscape social news experience that you are currently using today will be migrated and revealed soon at http://www.propeller.com/. We’re working hard behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition before we officially launch at this new destination.
It is important to us that you feel empowered to choose how you want to consume your news and participate in the community. As we mentioned in a recent post, the Netscape.com site will soon be redirected to the new Netscape portal, a more traditional and editorially-driven news experience. It’s already live, so you can check it out now if you haven’t already. You’ll notice some elements of our social news site there in short order, so that it will be easy for you to go back and forth and engage in each if you like.
Interesting name. Tip comes from Muhammad who notes, "my first thoughts on the brand name and the logo are both great. here’s what ‘propeller’ means to me. by definition, to propel means to motivate, actuate, move, prompt, incite, impel, or to give incentive for action and cause to move forward with force. that said, what will we (at propeller, previously netscape social news) be propelling?"
And he is right. I think it’s a good name and could lend to a feeling of forward movement which is important for AOL/Netscape/Propeller.
Update: They better have a damn good redirect script for the netscape submit buttons – otherwise it will be bad… Britney VMA bad.
Tom Drapeau, who we interviewed last month, has announced changes to the Netscape.com domain and brand. He notes, "Visitors to Netscape.com will see a more traditional news experience very soon. Don't worry, the social news site isn't going away! We will keep you updated on where you will be able to find the social news site as we get closer to making the switch."
Tom does not discuss where the social news site will move to or what will be included, my guess is that will come in 2-4 weeks. This is a smart move. Basically they are undoing what they did during the Calacanis-era.
Here is my guess as to how they (aol, calacanis, etc.) decided to use Netscape.com as the social news site when it began. They had traffic flowing to the site and realized it would be easier to swap an existing brand rather than try to build a new brand. It would appear less "clone-y" if they used big powerful Netscape.com vs. xyz124abc.com. It would allow Calacanis an immediate "success" in the eyes of AOL management and to the industry at large. Of course traffic really never grew, users just clicked voting and the site ran into huge spam issues. At the time of this writing, I have 249 emails asking me for votes from people I don't know. I do notice that Mahalo uses Netscape heavily for traffic-building. Will the change affect Mahalo?
In baseball, when a pitcher is removed mid-inning, any runners on base are his responsibility and if they score, are charged to his earned run average (ERA). Is this move/change tied to Calacanis? He left AOL/Netscape about 10 months ago, is this too long for a runner to head home for it to count?
It will be interesting to see what AOL property takes over the social news site and if any of their loyals will make the move. This will be a great test to see if social news can work for AOL. Jason noted many times that it was working on Netscape.com but of course they already had "float" to support whatever they did. Building new is generally harder than leveraging existing. Now they shall be on their own, and survival will be a totally different animal. Good luck to Tom and the team!