What's this? Netscape Search has changed? So says Netscape's Jason Calacanis. What's new? From what Jason says and I can see, the big difference is that there's a new "Netscape.com results" section at the top of the page that shows you top voted stories from the Netscape community news service.
More on that service is cover in my Netscape Aims To Be Digg 2.0, Slashdot 3.0 With Community News Mode post. After the Netscape.com results, you'll get Google-powered results from across the web.
To be clear, this isn't a case of users voting particular stories to the top of search results, say on a query-by-query basis. Rather, from what I can tell, stories get popular over at Netscape.com itself. Then the top stories over there might show up in response to searches at Netscape Search, if they are a good keyword match. In other words, think of it as NetscapeRank. If a story has good NetscapeRank, that might help it rank well in keyword search results.
FYI marketers, it might not take much to pick up that rank. A query on cars gives me three results that have only one or two votes each. More than votes might be involved, of course -- and I haven't seriously poked at this in any details. But there may be opportunities, though the Netscape traffic is far, far less than at the major search engines.
From a searcher perspective, I guess it's mainly useful if you want to be alerted to news results in the course of your regular web searching. Places like Google and Yahoo have long done this already. The difference with Netscape is that you can get your news sourced from a community, rather than an algorithmic search engine.
Perhaps down the line, we'll see Digg follow Netscape's lead and make it possible to search Digg and the web at the same time, something that doesn't seem possible right now at the Digg site.