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Can AOL keep Netscape.com from fading away?

Can AOL keep Netscape.com from fading away?

The once-popular site has undergone several ill-fated transformations and lost a lot of traffic in the process, leading analysts to wonder if it can be salvaged

This page-view graph, based on data compiled by Alexa Internet shows the erosion in Netscape.com's traffic between early 2002 and today.

"It's an interesting illustration of the waning of a very strong Internet brand," Sterling said.

As tragic as 2005's traffic numbers look compared with what Netscape.com had been, they would probably elicit tears of joy from AOL officials today. In August 2007, Netscape.com drew 6.1 million unique visitors, down from 10 million in August 2006, according to comScore.

The AOL spokeswoman said part of the traffic erosion of the past year is due to the fact that starting in the third quarter of 2006, Netscape Mail was migrated to AIM Mail so Netscape.com lost those visits.

Also, in October 2006, the site lost the traffic from the Netscape Connect dial-up access service, which was broken out into its own property.

She couldn't quantify how many unique visits the loss of those two components cost Netscape.com, but it's probably fair to say that AOL had much higher expectations for the site's traffic after its social news transformation.

Netscape.com drew 61 percent fewer visits in August of this year than in August of last year, a period when visits to social news rival Digg.com increased 142 percent, according to Hitwise.

In other words, the problem hasn't been the social news format, which lets readers submit and share links to stories, as well as vote on, comment on and rank those articles. Netscape.com simply didn't gain the expected traction with people who frequent these sites.

AOL acknowledged this when it announced the plan to turn Netscape.com into a portal again.

AOL isn't giving up on the social news site now housed at Netscape.com. Last week, AOL announced that the social news site will be rebaptized Propeller and moved to Propeller.com.

However, Propeller could face an uphill branding battle, considering the history of its Web address.

According to cached pages found at the Internet Archive, Propeller.com belonged to PropHead Development, which specialized in digital set-top boxes.


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