Remember Propeller? Back in the day when Digg () was all the rage in the social media world, and Netscape.com – once a hugely popular online destination due to its connection to Netscape, the web browser – was having an identity crisis, it seemed like a good idea to turn Netscape.com into a Digg-like site, and that’s how Propeller was born. Initially, what later became Propeller was available on Netscape.com, but AOL decided to spin the Digg-like bit into a separate site and turn Netscape back into a more traditional portal.
Alas, it was not to be. Digg-like sites — which once numbered in the thousands — were notoriously unsuccessful, except for a few such as Reddit (). Propeller was not among those exceptions. Just like many other similar sites, it failed to gather a large following, despite serious efforts to keep it going via a team of social media experts hired to manage various aspects of the community.
Now, AOL has informed users via a message on the front page of the site that Propeller will shut down on October 1. Judging by the sad state of the site (most stories have one or two votes, meaning that most have abandoned the site), few will miss it.
In hindsight, the problem with Digg clones is that they’re just like forums. Anyone can set up a forum, but if there’s no community to post there, it will be empty. The demise of Propeller marks the final fall of the curtain for an era in which many thought that every implementation of a cool new way to communicate online would automatically be successful. But without a community, most communication tools are useless.