Over the past couple of days I've gotten 170 comments (and still going!) on a post I wrote last week entitled Netscape Community Backlash. I've actually gotten more comments than the official Netscape story on this topic. The general gist of the feedback is that existing Netscape users dislike the new digg-like Netscape and want their old portal back. 

A few commenters compared the new version of Netscape to the New Coke debacle in the 1980's, when Coca-Cola introduced a new formula which turned into a public relations disaster.

As well as the expressions of hatred for the new community news-style Netscape, it's noticeable how many people still associate Netscape's homepage with the Netscape browser. In many ways it's common sense to associate the two together, because there is still a browser named 'Netscape'. But it does show that Netscape management has a branding problem, to add to the considerable teething problems they're having transitioning a reluctant 12 million users to the digg style homepage.

Without repeating what I wrote in my previous post, nevertheless I think it's worthwhile re-printing a couple of emails I received today - which seem to sum up the feelings of these Netscape users. Here's one from "another older, non-techie":

"It has been about 8 years that I've been on Netscape, at work and at home. Everyone here in the office is using MSN except me, because I'm more familiar with Netscape. It has always presented what I wanted & needed in a format that worked well for me.

I wouldn't've minded the format change so much if it hadn't made it impossible to get to my e-mail. "Go to MyNetscape..." No dice. I thought it might've been a problem with my home computer, so I tried going in thru the computer here at work. Snake-eyes.

After having been on for about a week, it now seems to be willing to let me into my Netscape e-mail account more easily. Too late: my husband, sons & I have sent out to everyone on our e-mail lists that we are now on Optonline.net (as much as it galls me to cast more of my lot in with the Dolans!) And, yes, like #26 said, it's kinda worrisome that ANYBODY can post ANY story without knowing how much research they did first. And, yes, the news format DOES kinda feel like a reality show.

As soon as I get a couple of extra minutes today at lunchtime, I'll need to change my homepage. Sorry, but I actually access the internet for work-related info more often than for pleasure, so I need for it to be mundane and predictable. I actually kinda liked that I got The Big Stories right there as I was on my way to do research."

What's Netscape doing about this? They're currently pointing its portal-loving users to AOL. On the Netscape homepage is this message: "Looking for a classic portal style? We suggest the new AOL.COM." 

However AOL.com doesn't wash with James Avery, who emailed me this message to Netscape boss Jason Calacanis:

"You [meaning Jason Calacanis] said elsewhere, "the old Netscape and current AOL are basically the same (just a different logo up top), so we're sending the folks who like a 'top down' or 'classic' portal to AOL."

The two portals were NOT basically the same. AOL.com was ALWAYS an option to the current Netscape.com user base, though 12 million users declined to use AOL.com in favor of Netscape.com which appealed to them. These users are now up for grabs by all of your competitors, and I hardly see how AOL is in a position to have not treaded lightly here. Some of the existing users have voiced their concerns, but I suspect many others will just quietly reprogram their start pages to other portals. Seems like AOL is saying F*** YOU to all of the 12 million people who had enjoyed a portal that disappeared overnight. Nice attitude. I think you owe its users and investors in the company a clear and convincing explanation."

It certainly looks like the people have spoken. And they're not happy. Will the new Netscape go the way of the New Coke? Or will Calacanis and crew get over this hurdle and convince a good portion of those 12 million users to stick around? Judging by the comments on my previous post, many of them seem to be already migrating to MSN and Yahoo. Forget the Rocketboom soap opera, this is much more interesting!