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InternetNews.com: Netscape Releases New Beta

Aug 08, 2000, 20:31 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Clint Boulton)

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By Clint Boulton, InternetNews.com

Struggling to put out a browser that will help it regain lost market share, Netscape Communications Tuesday launched the latest beta version of the Netscape 6 browser sporting a number of new features.

Available via free download, Preview Release 2 is a follow-up to the first release, launched in April. That version first showcased Netscape's small, open source Gecko engine, which the company licensed from mozilla.org.

Among the new tricks in the latest beta are "Themes," which allow users to change the look of the browser by applying different combinations of design elements or "skins." With this tool, businesses may create and distribute custom versions of the new browser with their own branding.

Also included is a new, encrypted password manager that builds on the privacy and security offerings of cookie manager and offers users the convenience of protecting passwords, and revised My Sidebar features, including My Sidebar Central and My Sidebar Directory.

The new directory features tabs from new tabs from: Real.com Guide, SportsLine.com and Digital City, among others.

Netscape Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Martin said the release was the America Online Inc. subsidiary's latest step in its aggressive browser campaign.

"Built on the open source code, Netscape 6 continues to fulfill its promise to deliver a browser that is smaller and faster, offers a complete communications package, leads the industry in standards compliance and can run across a wide variety of platforms, from traditional desktop PCs to new computing devices," said Martin.

Martin expressed confidence that the final version of the browser, released this fall, would be a driving, innovative tool for consumers and developers.

But some industry observers aren't so sure this will happen. Upon testing the first version, Andrew Starling, editor of internet.com's Web Developer's Journal wrote it was fitting that Netscape's revamped browser is powered by the Gecko engine because of the slew of bugs he found in the first preview version.

"Its font handling is poor, it can't keep track of its own URL history, it gave my CPU palpitations, and of course it's liable to crash," Starling said, pulling no punches. "It rejects good Java, and as for its DHTML handling - well, I haven't quite figured that one out yet."

Starling also said the only reason Netscape would get away with its new product was because of its brand -- coupled with the fact that many people do not like Microsoft Corp. these days.

Indeed, one developer who encountered a problem with Netscape 6 sounded off Monday on Web Developer.com's discussion forum.

"I'm in the process of putting up a site here that is split into a top and a bottom frame," said the developer who goes by the name Shadow. "Everything showed up great in both browsers, until I put in some simple javascript mouseovers into both frames. Now, it only opens in IE, but in Netscape I just get a big blank space at the top. That is definitely not what I had in mind!"

If problems snowball for Preview Release 2, and people turn viciously on Netscape, Martin's assertion this week in an interview with siliconvalley.internet.com that he did not want to be in a browser war might be a gross understatement.

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