Now that AOL (TWX) has officially killed the already dead Netscape browser, here’s what the company should do with the brand and portal that remain: Sell them to Mozilla/Firefox. Mozilla should then rebrand the Firefox browser “Netscape Firefox,” connect it to a retooled Netscape portal, and have another go at Microsoft’s IE.
Firefox’s steady erosion of IE’s market share within tech-savvy circles has been astonishing. The open source strategy is working, and having gathered a fanatical core user base, the product is now poised to break into the mainstream. The challenge from here will be building mass-market recognition and trust of the “Firefox” and “Mozilla” brands, which mainstream consumers are still either unaware of or frightened by.
The Netscape brand, meanwhile, still resonates with some mainstream consumers, who remember the hullabaloo surrounding Netscape’s 1995 IPO and still occasionally refer to all online browsers as “Netscape” (at least one in this household does). The current Netscape portal is just a re-skinned AOL.com portal, which itself is just a re-skinned (and inferior) Yahoo. What would a better and unique Netscape portal look like? We have no brilliant ideas here just yet, but we have no doubt that they Mozilla community can come up with some.
The deal could be cash, which AOL needs, or stock, which could yield a far bigger payout if the Mozilla strategy succeeds. It could also include traffic/carriage, ad-sales, content licensing, and other terms that would help AOL over the long haul. In short, it could allow AOL to salvage something from the Netscape debacle and save one of the Internet’s most iconic brands.
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