Netscape 6 Preview Available

On April 5, AOL Chairman Steve Case introduced Netscape 6 Preview Release 1, Netscape's next-generation Internet browser. After 3 years of incremental upgrades to version 4.x, Netscape 6 is an entirely new product, much smaller than Communicator 4.7 and with a more polished interface, an AOL email client, and new Web search and instant messaging tools. Netscape 6 requires only 8.5MB, compared with 18MB for Communicator 4.7 and 29.4MB for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0. Netscape dropped several Communicator components to make Netscape 6 leaner and meaner than its predecessor. A new Gecko browser engine that is smaller and faster than Communicator's rendering engine replaces Netcaster and the HTML rendering engine. Netscape 6 also adds Composer (a Web-page authoring tool), Net2Phone Internet telephony software, and a tool to translate Web pages from different languages. The new interface includes My Sidebar, a tabbed set of windows that lets you access Web sites and applications from your browser. This change adds to a portal-like environment where AOL hopes users will want to spend most of their computing time. You'll see pages for Web clipping services using mobile phones, tabs for headline news and stock quotes (managed from a Netcenter portfolio), and more than 400 custom tabs for Web sites. One tab is a Buddy List that lets you send an AOL Instant Message (IM) from within any IM-enabled browser and have Netscape's servers manage the message store. When you send a message via Netscape Mail, the software checks to see whether the recipient is on your Buddy List; if so, Netscape Mail sends the recipient an IM instead of starting a chat session. Netscape 6 allows multiple POP3 and AOL mail accounts and lets you keep different folders and inboxes for each, so you can use separate personal and business accounts without filtering. Netscape 6 also includes a search engine on its URL bar, expanding a feature that first appeared in IE 5.0. If you type in an action, such as "buy," and the item name, AOL's shopping search engine returns the matches it finds. A quote mark before a company name returns a stock quote. And, you can search several sites at once. Time will tell what vendors such as AOL and Microsoft will do with this functionality. One area of primary concern in browsers is security. Netscape 6 provides automatic site login using a master password system and can manage cookies individually or by site. Not long ago, Netscape owned most of the browser market. Its browser is still significant on non-Windows platforms but, according to recent Web traffic studies, plays a minor part in the Windows-based browser market. AOL is jumping into the browser marketplace with both feet by launching Netscape 6 for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux simultaneously. Netscape 6 could become a serious market presence on Web appliances, particularly those that run Linux, and appear in devices that leverage AOL's primary marketplace (e.g., on TV or in mall shopping kiosks).

TAGS: Windows 8
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