March 6, 2001 8:30 AM PST

Netscape tops off AOL Time Warner sites

AOL Time Warner said Tuesday it has begun using a Netscape "toolbar" to link together the Web sites of its popular media products, the latest sign of the media titan's efforts to weave the Internet through all of its businesses.

The Netscape toolbar will be included on the home pages of Time.com, Money.com, People.com and Warnerbros.com. The feature lets visitors of these sites use a handful of America Online's popular Web applications such as instant messaging, e-mail, calendar and search. CNN and other Time Inc. magazines are slated to join in the coming weeks.

The announcement sheds light on Netscape's role in the AOL Time Warner family. The onetime leader for Web browsers will act as the online connecting glue between AOL Time Warner's laundry list of magazine, television and entertainment brands. And much of the editorial content from these divisions will find a home on Netscape.com as a way to grow online audiences.

"This new initiative clearly positions Netscape as an important cross-promotional engine for the AOL Time Warner network of Web properties," Netscape President Jim Bankoff said in a statement.

Change has already begun. Over the past month, Netscape.com has quietly changed elements of its layout to further spotlight AOL Time Warner editorial content. For example, one space on its home page acts like a revolving door for stories penned by Time, People or Entertainment Weekly. And CNN.com supplies news stories under a "Latest News" category.

On the other side of the coin, Netscape hopes to increase the number of users for its Web applications by using these media sites as a distribution point.

Since America Online's multibillion-dollar merger with Time Warner, the two sides have taken many steps to become intertwined. All of the combined company's Web sites are being integrated under a common infrastructure center near AOL's headquarters in Dulles, Va.

In addition, AOL has become more closely tied to AOL Time Warner's entertainment events. For example, AOL has featured exclusive chats for new Warner Music Group album releases on its proprietary service. AOL has also been factored into television programming: AOL members can chat with actors from the company's WB network.

Netscape's future is now pinned on helping AOL Time Warner's sites. Before the merger, Time Warner's online attempts were not shining stars. The company's Time Inc. division embarked on an expensive attempt to create a Web hub featuring all of its magazine content. The site, called Pathfinder, floundered after bleeding through cash and being outpaced by rival Web portals such as Yahoo.

Netscape, the once-dominant Web browser developer that was later acquired by AOL, has largely stood in the shadows for the past couple of years. Since the acquisition, Microsoft has released numerous versions of Internet Explorer, now the most popular Web browser. Netscape has since shifted browser development to AOL Technology, and is now focused on Netscape.com and its small-business site, Netbusiness.

 

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