Skip to Content

Netscape’s Paid Bookmarkers Tweak Media

Jason Calacanis drew fire by offering to pay top Web users to populate his homepage. Was his plan evolution or revolution?
July 24, 2006

Netscape’s decline into the Web’s history has been staved off because AOL has continued to support the browser – and, to a greater extent, the website and its community. The site was recently overhauled to mirror the social news aggregation site, under the watchful eye of Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs, Inc. and general manager of Netscape, who hoped to draw more traffic by engaging its user base.

Unwilling (or, as some speculated, unable) to wait for the crowd to gather organically, Calacanis enraged the blogosphere when he offered to pay the top 50 social “bookmarkers” (his term for those who submit links to,, etc.) $1,000 a month for 150 posts on The thinking, one assumes, is that the top bookmarkers would post relevant stories that would in turn attract a larger crowd of readers – creating more advertising inventory.

It’s an interesting experiment, to be sure – one that appears to be driven by AOL’s insistence that quickly become a hot property – or face the chopping block. Not, as Seinfeld says, that there’s anything wrong with that.

My initial reaction, like many in the blogosphere, was one of skepticism. Over the last seven years, I’ve found much fault with Calacanis’ traveling medicine-man show antics. And during my days at Wired News, I spent much time and energy saying so. Calacanis speaks using the flowing terms of the digerati (here comparing the “media elite” ’ to the Mafia, for instance); but his motives and products never quite live up to the hype. He’s a business man. He wants to make money. And he wants Web purists (the people who’ve created the tools he seeks to exploit) to leave him alone.

Frankly, though, it’s hard to hold that against him. I’ve worked in the corporate media world for 11 years, and it’s not easy to balance the bottom line with the Hacker Ethic. So while I have a moment of hesitancy in defending his move, there is some merit to this experiment – although the methodology of actively recruiting paid ‘bookmarkers’ will ultimately doom it.

Calacanis is correct: if social news is to become the force that it may become, there will eventually need to be monies paid out to those who contribute. We need look no further than, one of the premiere social news sites on the Web today. It combines a healthy mix of professionally written pieces with citizen journalism, all of which is voted upon by the readership. Those stories with the most votes rise up the page, and citizen journalists, if their stories rise high enough, receive a fee.

However, actively recruiting a network of paid “bookmarkers” invites a host of issues, the most glaring being that by elevating a certain number of people as “special users,” you have immediately taken the social out of the network.

This isn’t to say that eventually a model similar to this one won’t rise to prominence – and Calacanis may someday declare that would have worked “had only…,” but today is not that day.

Deep Dive


Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.