As strange as it may seem, the "social edition" of Netscape launched exactly one year ago today. We've come a long way since then, with a rapidly expanding community of more than 268,000 members and millions of other weekly visitors. Of course the site itself has continued to change, thanks to our technical and editorial teams--the Netscape you see in 2008 will doubtless look very different from this year's model. But this did feel like an excellent moment to look back and see how we got here.
Alex Rudloff was part of the initial development team back in March 2006, and he recalls that the "social edition" was "largely the brainchild of Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey. While much of the design and general direction of the site had been laid out prior to my involvement, things really kicked off out at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, California. We discussed Netscape's early role as a means of discovery for Internet users, current Internet trends, and the unfortunate tarnishing of the brand over the years. It was clear that we all shared the same vision."
To carry out this vision of Netscape as an innovative social new portal, the existing site would have to be totally overhauled. This was a tall order. What's more, the team had only three months to pull it off. "It wasn't easy," says Rudloff. "That kind of schedule had its difficulties, especially for a virtual team. Our hard deadline meant that we were launching no matter what, even if that meant reductions in initial functionality and performance. Frustration, stress, and eventual exhaustion affected both anchors and developers alike. When we launched, though, it was one of the greatest feelings in the world."
Rudloff put in two more months on the project, improving code and security before returning to Blogsmith (he was, in Brian Alvey's phrase, only "on loan" to Netscape.) He continues to be proud of his involvement: "The brand has returned to its role as a discovery mechanism for Internet users of all demographics."
Meanwhile, the site took off with a bang. The top story during the first month, "AOL Copies Digg
," took Netscape's corporate parent to task for meddling with the old portal. The second most popular story, "Netscape's Blunder
," was equally unforgiving. In a way, this was a tribute to the intense loyalty of Netscape's original user base. Within a week or so, however, other subjects and stories percolated to the top. Guantanamo
, Matt Lauer
--the community made its areas of interest loud and clear.
By the second month, the focus had widened still further. The titles of the most popular stories said it all: "Worst President In History
," "Lance Bass: I'm Gay
," "Newt Gingrich Connects The Dots: Says World World III Has Begun
." Stories assailing George W. Bush have continued to dominate the hit parade here at Netscape. But other public figures have gotten their moments in the sun, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Irwin, Donald Trump, Cindy Sheehan, and that perennial pincushion Ann Coulter. And while the focus on politics is pretty consistent here, our membership can be notably passionate about other issues. Last month, to choose just a single example, there was a stampede of voting and commentary about that $64,000 question, "Should Prostitution Be Legal?" (And what's our most recent story? That would be number 411,694, "A Special Report on 21st Century Cities
," submitted by Netscape member Deidre. Thanks!)
While the community has grown by leaps and bounds, our technical and editorial teams have kept up the pace of innovation. Recent feature launches include the return of My.Netscape
and the Netscape Navigator 9.0
browser. We've also added NewsQuake
, where the editorial staff blogs about news, culture, and politics. This mingling of old-fashioned editorial content with the brave new world of Web 2.0 is, of course, a work-in-progress. How will it pan out? We invite you to stick around and see.
Where will the site be going next? Tom Drapeau, Director of Netscape and wearer of the Fearless Leader medallion, has this to say: "The future for Netscape looks very bright. We will continue to develop great new products. We will continue to listen to member feedback. We will continue to develop our social news site, which we believe will become the best of its kind on the Web."
Will the audience remain receptive to these innovations? "Netscape members are unlike other groups on the Web," says Drapeau. "And I am extremely flattered by the kind sentiment I have received through feedback channels. Not all the feedback is kind, of course. But the real conversations I have had with people of every stripe have been rewarding. Please, keep it coming! And here's to Netscape's second year being bigger than the first!"