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Red Hat Linux Will Drop Netscape for Mozilla or Other Browser

May 10, 2001, 20:36 (77 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt, LinuxToday

Red Hat Inc. ended speculation regarding the future of Netscape browsers being released with its popular Linux distribution when it quietly confirmed that it will remove Netscape from its released product in favor of another browser, most likely Mozilla.

The confirmation came from statements made today at the NetWorld+Interop convention in Las Vegas.

The decision to drop Netscape has long been an issue at Red Hat, according to Preston Brown, manager of Linux Operating System Development/Engineering at Red Hat.

Primarily, Red Hat was never comfortable with distributing the 4.x versions of Netscape because they were never open source releases.

The Mozilla browser, which is an open source application, "certainly is in the direction we're heading," Brown said.

Citing Mozilla's rapid improvements as it moves through its current beta cycle (Mozilla is currently at version 0.9), Brown indicated that the open-source browser is nearly ready to replace Netscape 4.7x, the browser currently packaged as Red Hat's primary Web tool.

Netscape, however, has its own open-source browser based on the Mozilla code: Netscape 6. Critics have complained that Netscape 6 was not a well functioning release, but Brown strongly emphasized that this was not the reason Netscape 6 would not be distributed with Red Hat Linux in the future.

"The simple answer is," Brown explained, "we don't have the redistribution rights for Netscape 6."

The latest Netscape browser was released under entirely different terms than the older Netscape 4.7 line of browsers, and Brown said that Red Hat would have to undergo extensive negotiations with AOL or Sun Microsystems to get the rights to distribute Netscape 6.

Rather than jumping through these legal hoops, Red Hat has decided to move to the freely available Mozilla browser. This was a technological decision as well, because Mozilla has already moved developmentally past the point of the Netscape 6 browser, which is based on an earlier version of Mozilla.

Brown did explain that while Mozilla is the likely heir apparent for Netscape 4.7x within Red Hat, this is not set in stone.

"We won't make the decision to drop [Netscape] 4.7 until some other browser has the same functionality," Brown said.

Thus the current speculation that Mozilla 1.0 will be the Netscape-killer in Red Hat is not entirely accurate, because if Netscape 4.7's features are not fully duplicated, then the browser will not be replaced.

Brown even raised the hypothetical solution of using the Linux browser Konqueror as a Netscape replacement, if it managed to duplicate Netscape's features to Red Hat's satisfaction.

One way or another, expect to see Netscape dropped from Red Hat in future releases.

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