Netscape Web portal morphs into ‘social news’ site

AOL LLC has retooled its portal as a “social news” Web site where users and staffers can post, vote for, tag and review articles.

With this move, AOL is following a model similar to the one popularized by the technology news-oriented and by the politics-focused, but with some twists and with a broader and more mainstream audience in mind.

The new, which goes into public beta on Thursday, will complement its “social news” core functionality with features borrowed from social bookmarking services, such as the posting of favorite Web site links, as well as from social networking sites, such as the creation of friends lists, and from video sharing sites, such as letting users upload videos. Users will have multiple options for subscribing to content on the site via RSS (Really Simple Syndication). will also have a staff of “anchors” performing journalistic tasks, such as choosing stories to feature, commenting on articles and doing research and reporting about chosen stories. These staffers are called anchors because their job will be to provide a level of journalistic oversight, steering discussions and molding content, but not editing the featured articles.

“We’re basically taking social bookmarking and making it into social news and using meta journalism to do that,” said Jason Calacanis, a blogging pioneer who is chief executive officer of Weblogs Inc., an AOL subsidiary.

Initially, will have eight full-time and 15 part-time anchors who will also host chat rooms to interact with visitors on real time. If a big story breaks, such as a natural disaster of major proportions like Hurricane Katrina, AOL will dispatch anchors to the scene of the action to report via online video.

Having these anchors overseeing the site will make a more orderly and responsible news site than those that are purely driven by technology and by end users, where posted content can often be inaccurate and even libelous, Calacanis said. is currently a Web portal similar to, Yahoo Inc.’s and Microsoft Corp.’s Its new incarnation as a social news site will be in public testing at this Web site until July 1.

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