It is being widely reported that AOL just released a beta version of an clever news site at beta.netscape.com.
I like how the new site seems to have applied some of the best lessons from many other efforts. It has fully automated content and placement like Google News. It has voting like Digg. It shows most popular and most highly ranked stories like Yahoo News and CNN. It shows related stores like BBC. It includes tags like del.icio.us. It has user moderated comments like Slashdot. It uses human editors to influence story selection and reduce spam, like Slashdot, Yahoo News, and all newspapers.
One lesson it did not seem yet to learn is one that Findory could have taught it. Most popular lists tend toward the sensationalistic and frivolous, as you can see from the most popular headlines on Yahoo News. As the Netscape.com site grows, this will become an increasing problem.
What is interesting to me is not the same as what is interesting to the hordes of teenagers out there, but it is similar to what interests some other tech and business geeks. Most popular doesn't cut it. What I want is most popular and most interesting for people like me.
Overall, I am impressed by what AOL has produced on beta.netscape.com. It is a blend of clever features created by people who were obviously paying close attention to the lessons and mistakes of other news sites.
See also Danny Sullivan's review on Search Engine Watch. Danny is much more negative on this one than I am, calling it a "brave attempt" but also reviewing parts of it as "lame" and "confusing".
Update: A couple weeks later, Nicholas Carr savages the new Netscape.com, saying, "Normal people seem to think the entire concept is ludicrous," and "The best way to prove that a niche product is a niche product is to toss it into the mainstream and let it sink."