New Netscape Stirs Controversy

In the two-plus weeks since AOL re-launched Netscape as a collaborative news site, where users can vote and comment on stories they think are noteworthy, one of the most heated topics of conversation has been the site itself.

Some users have declared that the new Netscape--which relies heavily on user participation--is a huge misstep for AOL, which is better known for top-down programming.

The backlash started the day the site went live, with a June 29 post titled "Netscape's Blunder" lamenting the new design. One commenter wrote: "There is no way to adequately describe my utter contempt for this inferior, inadequate, detestable, unsatisfactory, substandard product which has been foisted upon us!"

Another, who posted under the name "leaving today," wrote: "So I've signed up under a new and appropriate name. I'll never use it again because I'm leaving netscape and finding a new home."



Still, not all posts were critical. "I really like the new design, because the old netscape was that, old," offered one commenter.

Despite the publicly posted remarks, by at least one metric the new site is successful. According to Hitwise, the site drew .0604 percent of all Web visits for the week ending July 8--up 54 percent from the corresponding week last year.

That figure, however, represents the number of visits, not visitors. The number of unique visitors has dropped year-over-year--but had been trending downward before the redesign. On Friday, July 7, for instance, the new drew 1.671 million visitors--down 51 percent from 3.411 million on Friday, July 8, 2005. But traffic also was dwindling before the redesign; on June 23, the old garnered 1.916 million visitors--down 47 percent from the 3.582 million visitors on June 24, 2005.

Overall, Netscape traffic had declined 37 percent from June 2005 to last month, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

AOL did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

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