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Blackbird is a new browser built on top of Mozilla technology that is supposed to make it easier for African Americans to discover relevant content on the web and to interact with other members of the African American community online by sharing stories, news, comments and videos via the browser.
The browser displays a pre-set news ticker on top, pulls in news content from Google News that might be of interest to African-Americans, and features a section with video content from online TV sites like UptownLiveTV, NSNewsTV, DigitalSoulTV and ComedyBanksTV. Other than that, there’s a lot of integration with the most popular social networks, a ‘Black Search’, preset ‘Black Bookmarks’, etc. There’s also a ‘Give Back’ program that streamlines donations to a number of non-profit organizations (Blackbird intends to donate 10% of its 2009 revenue to these partners as well).
Race And The Web: Going After Niche Markets Or Practicing Digital Segregation? [techcrunch.com]
The release of Blackbird, an African American focused web browser sparked quite a bit of controversy this past week. The TechCrunch post about it elicited reactions from both sides of the aisle (it has 275 comments and counting). Some argued for the value of niche audiences while others debated that the idea of a Black browser is in and of itself separatism, racist even. But catering to niche audiences online is nothing new. In fact, browsers that focus on a specific market segment isn’t all that new either. For example there’s Gloss, a women focused fashion and beauty browser created using Flock, the social media browser. But what makes the launch of Blackbird both a controversial and sensitive topic, is that it is focused towards an ethnic segment versus a special interest group. Race is still an extremely touchy subject in America, and the Internet and web are not immune to this sensitivity regardless of how open it is. But aren’t most businesses, especially web businesses, started in this "Web 2.0" era defined by catering to a particular niche?
What do you think? Are all these niche markets a good thing? Is the quest for profits at any cost further segmenting society instead of bringing us together as was the promise of the web way back when?
HTTP user-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.9) Gecko/2008120923 Blackbird/0.99a
HTTP accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
HTTP accept language: en-us,en;q=0.5
HTTP accept charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
HTTP accept encoding: gzip,deflate