Richard MacManus has a blog post entitled Netscape Community Backlash where he writes

I've been tracking the release of the new Digg-style community news site, because there is a lot of backlash within the Netscape community about it. A story called Netscape's Blunder!!! was number 1 on for a while and the latest post on the homepage is entitled A Request by the Netscape Community to Bring Back Our There's another Netscape story currently on the homepage called Netscape Reborn: Why? Why? Why?. The backlash has presumably led to this message currently on the right of the homepage, from the Netscape team:

"Attention Netscape users Your Netscape mail hasn't gone anywhere, you can find it right here! Also, My.Netscape and your Stock Quotes are still online as well."

There appears to be a genuine feeling of betrayal by the (very large) set of users who have had as their homepage for some time. Indeed I've been getting comments on my own posts and even emails from Netscape users, upset about the change to the Digg style.

All of this shows how passionate people can get about their Web homepage - and they're just as much a 'community' as the users are. It's just that they like the old-school Web homepage, not the new Digg style. Also what this tells me is that while a lot of us geeks and 2.0 types are addicted to our own technology (and our own voices, to be honest), it's pretty darn obvious that A LOT of people want to stick with the status quo.

This is one of those reasons why I believe that Danah Boyd's essays should be required reading for anyone interested in building social software. I disagree with Richard MacManus that the problem is that a lot of people want to stick with the status quo. I agree that it plays a part but the real problem is that AOL made a drastic change to software that was an integral part of their users lives in such a draconian manner.

People grow attached to the software they use and the online community that exists around that software. Heck, I've been using My Yahoo! for the past five or six years and have only partially switched to even though I made a conscious decision to switch*. I'd personally be pretty irritated if one day Yahoo! radically switched things around in a desperate attempt to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon and I'm a tech geek.

AOL should have engaged with their community of users before launching the revamped Digg-like version of Netscape. At the very least, the company should have considered using an alternate URL for the site and not the valuable domain or done some A/B testing to see if users liked the switch over or not. It may be that the people complaining are a vocal minority but something tells me that they aren't given how drastic the change to the site has been. Perhaps making and separate sites wasn't such a bad idea after all. :)

* I use at work and My Yahoo! at home.


Monday, July 3, 2006 8:48:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"The real problem is that AOL made a drastic change to software that was an integral part of their users lives."

Agreed. Unilaterally trying to change existing customer habits is risky business.

We write the software, sure, but each audience member owns their habits, the way they approach the tool.

Making a 1.0 release in a new service area is pretty straightforward, but the challenges change dramatically after a 3.0 release, or for a new entry in an established class of applications (emailers, imaging, etc). People own their habits, and it's delicate work to change these.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006 6:43:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I agree. They should have atleast tried something like Yahoo.

Yahoo has a new home page. But they are not forcing it to everyone. They have a small link on top of their homepage asking users to try out the new layout.
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