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Netscape has had quite a history in over the past 10+ years. After igniting the Silicon Valley mid-to-late ’90s tech boom by pioneering the browser, it has taken on many shapes and sizes. Now its owner, AOL, hopes to turn it into a social news site — led by prolific blogger Jason Calacanis — akin to the popular Digg. The San Jose Mercury News explains more here, New York Times coverage here, and CNET has screen shots here.

Social Media, or social search (a close cousin of social networking), is exploding in popularity all over the Web, led mostly by Yahoo! (Flickr,, My Web, Answers, etc.) Google has also begun to experiment with it. We’ll have to wait and see if AOL can join the social media fray, or if this ends up simply becoming a me-too offering. It seems to be a smart move by AOL, as its strong point is content, and others have proved that significant value can be added by utilizing users to do the heavy lifting of tagging and rating content. The Netscape name will also help, although it might be a challenge to shed the associations (be they good, bad or ugly) of the legacy brand.

This also may be a sign of things to come for AOL’s direction down the social media path and there are likely more product launches in the pipeline. Given AOL’s vast content network, a social bookmarking product could be next. Or maybe an enhanced AOL Pictures with more sharing/social features (lots of competition and feature development in this space). It should be interesting to see what the company does next. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.

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