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Netscape's Digg killer is actually something very different

Netscape's Digg killer is actually something very different, now an AOL property, is a content portal that millions of people visit. But it's also old school, very Web 1.0. The new Web 2.0 model is to have users discover good online content and share it with the rest of the community. That's what the technology site Digg (and others) have done: replaced editors with the wisdom of the crowd. That's what it looks like Netscape is trying to do with the new, now in beta [news story].

But this new site, as it is currently designed, is something other than a Digg killer. There's a wise crowd feeding stories into the site, but there's also editorial control over what is promoted at the top of the page. Presumably the editors (called anchors by Netscape) are tracking what's popular and will give the best stories a little more juice. The editors can also choose to ignore stories that don't fit the editorial mission of the page. (The site has content categories other than technology; Digg is rumored to be expanding its content areas, too.)

Netscape's new site is an interesting experiment, and it may play better for the mass audience that does want some form of adult supervision on its portal site. Digg, in contrast, is all about letting the wacky and weird stuff bubble up to the top, controlled only by users and the site's algorithms. It's a fantastic way to find not just the content that obviously should be big, but the stories and links that resonate with the audience in ways editors can't predict.

Netscape is also keeping more of the links to itself. When you click a story headline, you go to a summary page for the story and can read other Netscape users' comments on it. Conceptually this enables a community of users to comment on an item's topic, instead of the item itself. But it also robs the community away from the originating site.

You can link through to the original story, but that's via a link two sizes smaller than the headline. And when you do link through, you get a left-hand navigation pane, called the Navigator, that reminds you of the other stories on Netscape. This is a very old trick, and it smacks more of a site that is interested in keeping you in its garden rather than in helping you explore the world yourself (also, it doesn't work reliably; several sites I clicked from Netscape managed to push the navigation pane off their page as soon as they loaded).

The new Netscape, with its blend of user-generated and editor-promoted links, feels like the three-way love child of the current Netscape portal, Digg, and (which also employs anchors to organize its content areas). It may well be what the mass Internet audience needs, but it's no Digg.