AOL/Netscape's Big Web 2.0 Test

On the face of it, the news that AOL/Netscape is launching a Digg killer suggests that if Digg, Reddit, and other imitators had a chance to sell, they should have taken it. It also suggests that Web 2.0 start-ups may be vulnerable to the goliath media companies with huge reach swooping in to eat their lunch — the low barrier to entry sword cuts both ways.

This will effectively be a large-scale test of Web 2.0 ideology.

Web 2.0 has been betting that active user participation in news and information gathering and filtering is the wave of the future. It works for the niche audiences of Digg and other Web 2.0 sites, but will it work for a mass audience?

This will also be a key test because Netscape has not drunk all of Web 2.0 the koolaid:

It’s not exactly a Digg clone (home page screenshot here). Submitted stories are voted on in much the same way, and the more votes a story gets the higher it appears in a category home page or on itself. However, the top few spots in each category and on the home page are determined by an “anchorâ€Â� – essentially an editor choosing from stories moving up the ranks.

AOL is betting that the “collective intelligence” can get you 80% of the way there but it can’t get you all the way to information filtering nirvana — you still need hierarchical editorial intelligence. (Of course, Digg may not be entirely 2.0 pure either.)

I’ll be perfectly honest — I don’t know what the results of this grand experiment will be. But everyone with a stake in the convergence of media and technology should be watching very closely.