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Jumbo! Guides: Next Generation Browsers

by Rafael Hernandez, Jumbo!
Guides

For the past few years there haven’t been many significant
advances in the Internet browser market. It’s been two programs
consistently battling it out, trying to get a larger piece of the
market share with one falling behind. Of course, we’re talking
about Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator and as
of right now Internet Explorer holds a large chunk of the market
and gains more by the day.

Was Netscape to sit idly by while they lose out to their rival?
Of course not. They were hidden away working on the latest and
greatest version of their web browser and just recently they
unveiled a preview version. But look out, the very same day
Microsoft released a preview version of their very own “up and
coming” browser. What’s in store for your future browsing? We’ll
take a look here in our Next Generation Browser Guide. Before we
delve into these two browsers, you’ll have to remember a few
things. These are preview releases, meaning they aren’t final
versions or even close to final. There are sure to be many
revisions and updates that affect how the programs will run before
they’re released. Features that are included now may not be in the
future, and by the same token, they may add some new intriguing
features.

Stability should be a concern if you’re going to attempt using
these two programs. Some features or even web pages may send the
browser into a tizzy, possibly causing it to crash out or crash the
entire system. If you’re willing to try, we’d suggest backing up
all of your important files before installing either.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5

Yes the browser that has been at the center of a major legal
battle has received yet some more polishing in the form of a new
version. Internet Explorer 5.5 is, for the most part, just an
enhancement to the previous version and doesn’t really have
anything that’s dramatically different at first glance. Logical
enough as most interim releases, such as those the in .(1-9) form,
add behind the scene features while new .0 releases generally house
changes on how a program looks and runs overall.

As with previous IE’s you’ll have to download a small program
you’ll have to run in order to install the components onto your
system. With this small installer, you can chose to install a full
version of the program, or for the more advanced users, you can
pick and choose which components you want.

Once you have it installed you’ll probably say to yourself
“Nothing has changed!” As we explained above, this preview release
adds features that are not readily apparent. Travel to websites
over time however and you’ll see the features in action. Support
for standards such as SMIL has been included. SMIL was created by
the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to allow web developers to
create web pages where many different elements work in a
synchronized fashion. An example would be an animation or streaming
file playing on a web page and then having the web page itself
change during certain points of the animation to highlight or
expand upon what’s happening.

The program also includes improved Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)
support, as well as new DHTML features. Granted we could go
in-depth on everything that was added in this release but we would
end up having a 15 page article on our hands. If you’re a web
developer and would like to know just what has been added we
suggest you visit the IE 5.5
developers page
. Here is where developers can go for in-depth
information, and in some cases, view sample HTML code and example
pages.

For the rest of us browser users, it’s a nice release that’ll
allow web developers to bring us more feature-rich websites but
this release isn’t a necessary download for us just yet. We’d wait
for it to be in final form before downloading. Of course if you
want to see the latest web designs as they were meant to be seen,
then by all means try the browser out.

Netscape Navigator 6.0

They’ve been at the drawing board for quite a while now,
attempting to create a browser and fostering the Open Source
movement in the hopes of winning back some of that elusive market
share back. With Netscape Navigator 6.0 it appears they have a shot
at just that. They’ve taken a page from various playbooks including
Microsoft’s own with their installation routine. Similar to
Internet Explorer’s you first download a small program and through
it you choose the features you want.

One glaring change you’ll notice immediately is its interface.
Based on the familiar color scheme it’s, in this reviewer’s
opinion, more eye pleasing and user friendly than previous
versions. Beyond the basic controls, the browser now features a “My
Sidebar” feature, which contains separate tabs that contain
customizable information, ranging from news and a stock
quote/portfolio tracker, to tabs for sites such as CNN and eBay.
Since the browser was only just released, your options for
additional tabs isn’t very large but as time passes we’re sure more
and more sites will support this feature.

The browser isn’t the only part of the program mind you; they’ve
carried over all of your favorite add-on programs such as the
e-mail/newsgroup reader, web page composer, and address book. All
of the extra features have the same look and feel as the browser
and include the same “My Sidebar” addition. It’s odd at first, but
you’re always able to get a look at your stock quotes while you’re
typing up an email or whipping up a web page in the composer.

The browser handles pages well; content is displayed as quickly
as the browser gets the information. There are a few websites that
did not display properly but it’s nothing major and we can’t tell
if it’s the fault of the program or with the web page coding
itself. Really, there’s very little wrong with the program and we
hope to see it in final version soon.

Overall, even in its current form, Netscape Navigator 6 is still
a solid program with support for most major HTML standards and a
feature set that rivals Microsoft’s browser. If you’re in the mood
to check out a new browser, we’d suggest you try this one.

Conclusion

That’s all for our Next Generation Browsers Guide, we hope
you’ve gotten an idea of what to expect from the two big names in
the browser market. One thing’s for sure, both products are worthy
competitors, and competition is good for the end user.