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The New Netscape Version 6.0 -- a Review

Nov 20, 2000, 20:43 (39 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Wayno Guerrini)

[ Thanks to Wayno Guerrini for this review. ]
by Wayno Guerrini

I have long been a fan and advocate of Netscape as a browser for many years. I vividly remember using the early versions of Netscape Version 2, with some really really bad bugs -- (like overwriting the bookmark.htm file at random intervals for no reason!) and learned the importance of "saving early, and saving often." Back then there were only two major players in the market: NCSA Mosaic and Netscape, which was formed by the very creators of NCSA Mosaic. (Okay I recognize that Lynx for the *nix community was around a lot longer!)

Part of the reason I use Netscape is because it has afforded me, a common platform across operating systems -- I can use Netscape on any flavour of Windows, or any flavour of Linux, I choose. (I have both a Linux box and a Windows 2000 box). MicroSoft does NOT have a version of Internet Explorer that is compatible with Linux, and probably never will. So that singular fact alone, having a common browser platform across all operating systems, heavily influenced my decision to use Netscape.

Now, of course, the field has entirely changed. We have several browsers, but two seem to pre-dominate the market -- Netscape (now a wholly owned subsidiary of America Online (AOL), and of course the seemingly ubiquitous, Microsoft Internet Explorer.

To be honest, I've NEVER liked Internet Explorer. It was non-intuitive from the beginning. Sorry, but I like the one word that says "FORWARD," "BACK," "REFRESH/RELOAD," etc. I don't like little icons that I can't in God's green earth, decipher the meaning. To this day, I only use Internet Explorer for ONE thing and ONE thing only: Windows Updates. MicroSoft, ensures its Monopoly in the browser wars, by requiring you to have their browser to download updates to its operating system. Imagine how ludicrous this would be, if every vendor required you to have their own special little piece of software to update their software?

I had tried Netscape 6 back about 6-8 months ago, when it was still a beta. Personally, I found it to be slow, cumbersome, and very nonintuitive. Today, with the "official release" now out, I still find it slow, cumbersome, and very non-intuitive.

I have NOT tried installing Netscape 6 on Linux yet, but my friend Joe Sloan of Toyota has. I don't know of any installation problems he encountered, but he said when he was all done, he tried to run it and got "can't execute program." Well you know the Version 4.74 browser I have on my Linux box works peachy.

The installation of Netscape 6 for Windows, at least with Windows 2000 (with SP1 installed), was clumsy. Instead of getting ONE large file, it now gets about a dozen. And it insists on using its "Smart Download" software, whether you want to or not. Sorry no choice! (I choose NOT to install over the top of my current Netscape 4.76, but to install in an entirely different directory. Two rules in dealing with computers:

1. Always have a path back to where you were, before you messed it up.

2. Always follow rule number one!

So I ended up with 13 files and 16 meg of downloadable material. Sorry but for me, dealing with one file is plenty - now I have to deal with a dozen (12 download files, plus the N6Setup program).

Once I got it installed this is where the fun began. In order to finish installing I had to create a NetCenter Id. The only purpose I can see, is to ensure you more unneeded spammail (TM) in your e-mail inbox. Having done this eons ago, for the life of me, I could NOT remember my login ID. I fussed and fidgeted, and even giving it the correct email address and zip code to get my userid, was of no use. I finally found the userid buried in an email file that I had saved. So, I got beyond problem one.

Next, once I had all the information entered, I hit submit. BAM! It just sat there. I waited for about 3 min -- saw that the program was not getting any CPU time, and dutifully nuked it.

I held my breath and tried again -- this time, I was successful. But wait. My gosh, what did they do? the browser load is abysmally slow. I have and AMD Athlon 700, with 128 M/B or RAM, and a 7200 RPM hard drive. Hardly a wimpy system.

The browser finally came up -- and what a disappointment! The first thing you ask is: "What's the side bar nonsense, and why is it taking up so much desktop real estate? A simple click and drag got rid of that!

Gone however, are my beloved word icons (you know, "BACK," "FORWARD," "REFRESH/RELOAD," etc. They have been replaced by icons. Nope, there is NO option for turning on the WORD icons. You get picture icons, like it or not. Gone also is the "balloon" help, so you can run your mouse over the icon, and it tells you what it is. User friendly? Not a chance!

Instead of the bookmark tab being right next to where you enter a web site location (URL), its now part of the top menu structure - meaning you have to go OUT of your way to access your bookmarks now.

But the worse is yet to come. I listen to RealPlayer and Windows Media Player broadcasts all the time. I listen to Chuck Swindoll "Insight for Living" program almost everyday. (He's at http://www2.oneplace.com/Ministries/Insight_For_Living/ ) So I figured, what the heck check it out. BAM -- there is NO SUPPORT in Netscape 6 for Realplayer Integration. Yes I "DID* try removing and re-installing RealPlayer 8. To no avail. Ditto for Windows Media Player broadcasts. (I listen to the KATT/FM out of Oklahoma City - still one of my favourite stations! (http://www.katt.com). I got some arcane error message that I needed to use something else (another browser) to listen to this broadcast.

If this is the newest, greatest, bestest, fastest (err in this case slowest loading) - why doesn't it support some of the basic plugins? God knows what would happen if I need shockwave or some other plugin!

So, why do I still have it around? Well, in my spare time I do web design, and need to have a browser that supports Java (the only redeeming thing about Netscape 6 is the "java console" - which is accessible in your system tray) as well as the latest in XML (Extensible Markup Language).

But for home users, who do NOT need bleeding edge, I recommend staying away from Netscape 6. its cumbersome to install, loads very slowly, is NOT intuitive anymore, and lacks support for even the most common plugins. I recommend staying with Netscape 4.76 or Internet Explorer for the time being. Netscape 6 has a long way to go, before its ready for home use.

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