Pardon the word-play, but the “all-new” My.Netscape launching tomorrow may very well be two years too late. When talking about a highly-dynamic market like the social web, it’s important to be on-the-ball with what you offer and when you offer it. It’s a cut-throat market, and being a month late can make all the difference – hence this prediction: “My.Netscape 2.0” isn’t going to make the cut.
For one thing, Netscape doesn’t offer anything that’s not already there, provided by the now more-popular social web homepage services, like NetVibes, PageFlakes, Live, Yahoo!, and Google. The most important thing to keep in mind is: users have already left. If they have no reason to switch back to My.Netscape, why should they? They can get equal/better services elsewhere on the web, they’ve already configured them, and they’re more or less happy there.
When My.Netscape couldn’t catch up with the times, they left it for the competing services. The competing services haven’t given them a reason to look elsewhere, so there’s no reason to assume they will.
As a matter of fact, Netscape doesn’t offer anything exciting, not even a half-decent layout. The programmers at Netscape ought to be ashamed of themselves, they’re just blatantly copying ideas (such as modules and widgets), design (just about everything except the grey theme), and technique (everything) from the competition, with nothing new in the mix.
A site can’t succeed without adopting some of the concepts already out there, but in order for it to stand out, it must also innovate. It doesn’t work well if you have one without the other, but just adoption without innovation is suicide.
However, personalized homepages are more than just skin-deep. People use Google’s decidedly not-anything-special homepage service because it gives them one-click access to Google Reader, GMail, and (most importantly) Google Search. They use Live.com because of the original content by MSN authors, cross-compatible Widgets, and Live search. They use NetVibes because of the powerful development framework that makes creating awesome modules that easy.
Maybe people will use Netscape because of the new netscape.com digg-like site. Or maybe they won’t. It depends, but you almost guarantee that the average internet user who is already using a competing service won’t be switching anytime soon – not when Netscape doesn’t give them a good reason to!