Being an intermediary is not as easy as it looks was always the biggest wasted opportunity on the Internet. Somewhere in its history, it was a site for small an medium-sized businesses. At some point after AOL merged with Time Warner, its reason for being was to shill Time Warner media properties.
Still, according to, five million people visit every month.
Last year, AOL launched a relatively bold experiment by turning Netscape into what some have called a “Digg clone” but always felt like somebody spilled a test tube full of Digg’s DNA and never really cleaned it up properly. is now a place where right-wingers and left-wingers taunt one another by voting up partisan diatribes: “Candidate Thompson Praised for Global Warming Views” or “Bush’s Bogus Bailout” or “Upcoming Changes at Netscape”. Actually, that last one was designed to taunt everyone who invested their time and energy at
Meanwhile, (to continue the genetic engineering metaphor) is another weird hybrid. It doesn’t really have an editorial voice, so it reads like an AP wire feed with comments enabled. Though I’ve grown to appreciate the core concept of a newsfeed that is optimized for interaction — every story has a quiz, poll, in-page gallery, or wacky picture — it’s impossible to take seriously as a news source. No one is going to feel taunted or challenged by any story there.
In a world where intermediaries are becoming dominant sources of news and information, one of the world’s biggest media companies still has no strategy for two of the best-known portals on the net.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.