Instead of writing about how today was Netscape’s last official day on Earth (I was never going to write about that, anyway), I’m bringing you a rare bit of good news – if you’re a diehard Netscape fan, that is (I know…highly unlikely): AOL is extending support for the Netscape browser until March 1st and one more update for it is on the way. I’m not sure why this is good news, since I happen to like the Netscape browser – and since it will still die (as in forever) in 30 more days. I take it as bad news topped with a tiny sprinkle of “better-than-nothing-I-suppose” – but fans of this browser seem to think this is “great news“, so I won’t argue.
News of AOL ending support for their once-revered Netscape browser got me taking a year-end trip down Digg.com to review this year’s stories about Netscape: How their social news site was moved to Propeller.com and how Netscape.com would become a portal once again. I came to a startling conclusion: AOL is not just a collection of websites; it’s a sticky, tangled-up maze of redirects.
When you try to visit Netscape.com these days, your browser heads over to Netscape.AOL.com. Instead of a blue Navigator wheel in the tab, you get the AOL Evil Eye™. When you click a story link, your browser finds News.AOL.com – unless you click a link for a political story – then it rushes away to News.Netscape.com but gets flipped off to News.Propeller.com. For more of this torment, visit WOW.com; it gets amnesia now and thinks it’s at Wowinsider.com.
I’ve tried to find an explanation for these redirects, but I can’t. What are the chances crazy AOL programmers have threatened to quit if they can’t run the servers the way they want to – and redirect these sites just to piss off everyone else? Maybe they actually hate AOL and want all their traffic to die. (Hey guys, if you’re reading this, you’re doing a great job; page views are way down.) Here, I’ve drawn up a chart just to confuse you even more.
When Jason Calacanis (former GM of Netscape who morphed it into a social news site last summer) quit AOL, I wrote about how I hoped that in his wake AOL would change Netscape back into what it was: a halfway decent (if low-brow) portal. Breaking news announces that they’ll finally do just that next week. From the AP article (9-22-2207: it’s now deleted):
If you think a Michael Arrington rumor holds any weight, you’ll guess (correctly) that AOL is becoming more screwed by the minute. In the followup post to his news that Netscape.com might be shut down, Michael claims aol.netscape.com might redirect to netscape.com instead, which in turn might become the AOL domain name wow.com to increase page views (supposedly as high as 3 million a month as it stands.)