In an anticipated move, AOL has announced that it will move the social news site provided at Netscape.com (a Digg type site) to Propeller.com. The new site is not live yet. Users going to Netscape.com will currently still find the social news site; however, they will soon be redirected to the new Netscape portal that is already available. The Netscape portal offers a traditional look, some news blended with other features including the opportunity to engage with the news through the social news site.
According to Netscape, this move is to empower users to choose how they want to consume the news and participate in the community. In short, although the social news site had a active group of supporters, this just simply did not meet the needs of AOL's broader audience. Will this move propel AOL's social news experiment into oblivion or spur new growth and innovation? This remains to be seen.
The social news site was launched with Jason Calcanis on board to thump the drum and encourage staying the course. It was originally thought that this site might challenge Digg for supremacy in the social news space. However, with the departure of Calcanis to his new venture Mahalo, the site lost an influential internal social networking supporter, and traditionalists, wanting to bring back features that users missed, held the day.
A look at the new portal site suggests that the new blend may have a lot to offer – a news portal at Netscape.com that provides users a with a traditional look and feel but includes the opportunity for users to participate in the process through Propeller. To make this work there are challenges that Propeller.com will have to overcome. First, if it is to survive, the site will need to encourage current users to continue using the social news features available at the new domain. The more daunting task will be encouraging new users to join the community. Users and their dedication to the process is the lifeblood of any community. Will the community stay intact? Will it garner new users from those using the more traditional portal site? This will depend on how AOL communicates the change to its multiple audiences and user enthusiasm.