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Netscape : Strong Brand with No Identity

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Netscape : Strong Brand with No Identity

AOL has done everything it can to mangle the Netscape brand, which it purchased 10 years ago for $4.2 billion, into a disoriented web zombie, which has crawled its way through our browsing for years and classification of sites on the web, to a community of social news sharing, and now into the void of nothingness.

  • Netscape, up to about 6 years ago, had a very strong and loyal following, being the grandfather of the Mozilla browser.
  • Its homepage, at Netscape.com, was the default page for the Netscape browser, bringing millions of users to Netscape.com every day.
  • Problem was, their browser usage fell to obscurity and the site was dependent on a dying breed of web users who have not upgraded their browsers since the 90’s.
  • Then, as Netscape was on the verge of total nothingness, AOL gave the brand to Jason Calcanis, in an effort to work his magic on it forming a social news sharing site run by editors.
  • Calacanis went on to form Mahalo, which would have probably become the future of Netscape or some facet of AOL search.
  • Then, AOL decides to revert Netscape.com back to a news portal with real news (not blog news) and moves the Netscape project over to their new Propeller service.
  • Netscape.com is now a copy of AOL News, and back where it was years ago, still trying to squeeze the money juice out of a small number of users still loyal to the site, or who cannot figure out how to change their browser homepage.

But now, AOL has taken the final step in the death of Netscape, pulling the plug on its browser. AOL’s Tom Drapeau writes :

AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported Web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be.

Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically acclaimed products, we feel it’s the right time to end development of Netscape-branded browsers, hand the [reins] fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.

Sure, there is probably much more to the decision than I listed above, and I’m sure there is some strategic benefit to encouraging current Netscape browser users to upgrade to Mozilla (which uses a Google powered homepage and search box), but I really do not see a future to Netscape given this latest move.

Which is what was so puzzling about the change of their social news site from Netscape to Propeller. Of course the Calacanis driven social news may have not paid all of the bills or made a lot of friends at Netscape, but it gave the brand a future.

Now, the Netscape brand has regressed back to being a shadow of its former self, and if AOL is not proactive about its future plans for the brand, that shadow will one day disappear.

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Loren Baker

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ... [Read full bio]

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