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Netscape to buy user-maintained Web directory

Great Satan of browsers plays Mozilla open source card to win over anti-corporate NewHoo users

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Netscape's scheme to expand its Netcenter Web portal took a step further yesterday with the announcement that the company intends to buy Internet directory service NewHoo. It's an interesting purchase. Many commentators have made much of NewHoo's use of freeware, but that's probably as much about saving money as Net anti-corporatism. That the latter is part of NewHoo's agenda is clear from both its name, which is remarkably similar to a certain commercial portal, and its Web site, which is also remarkably similar to that of the same commercial portal. The site is compiled and maintained by volunteers, and, according to the company, is a serious attempt to create a meaningful search system for a network that has expanded beyond the capacity of automated search engines and the "small editorial staffs" that run the likes of Yahoo! "Instead of fighting the explosive growth of the Internet, NewHoo provides the means for the Internet to organize itself," the organisation says. "As the Internet grows, so do the number of net-citizens. These citizens can each organize a small portion of the Web and present it back to the rest of the population, culling out the bad and useless and keeping only best content." For Netscape, that translates into a large body of enthusiastic users who will, it hopes, both boost its user base and continue to provide it with a high quality directory service. Users have become the chief target of portals, and buying user bases is now one of the most common reasons for acquisitions. Earlier this month, Netscape bought Web-based promotional operation AtWeb and Microsoft bought Web advertising body LinkExhange, both as much for their users as their products and technologies (see earlier story). Of course, quite how NewHoo's users and editors will take to providing Netscape with information and support will remain to be seen. NewHoo's bosses are playing the open source software card, relying on Netscape's decision to make its browser source code available to all to win over NewHoo users. But Netcenter is just as commercial as Yahoo! and co., so it will be interesting to see how NewHoo users react to the acquisition. ®

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