From Diana J. Choyce
Apr 24 - 30, 2000
The newest Netscape browser was unleashed on the public last week.
Whether it will unseat the reigning champion, Microsoft Internet Explorer, remains to be
seen. Netscape was bought out last year by AOL, which makes the war even more interesting.
It's no secret that AOL is under fire about its own version 5 browser and internet
connection. In fact there have been lawsuits started over its effect on one's computer.
Users are alleging that it wipes out all other ISP connections leaving its own connection
intact. Will this new Netscape have any similar effects?
Netscape 6 is faster and far more flexible than other Internet
browsers, AOL Chairman Stephen Case said in a speech touting the new browser and
appliances at the Internet World 2000 conference. "These new initiatives are part of
our AOL anywhere strategy of embedding the efficiency and convenience of the Internet into
people's everyday lives,'' Case said.'' It's nothing less than the start of the second
Internet revolution.'' Netscape 6 will support Extensible Markup Language, Document Object
rendering engine which is at the root of its technology. Gecko is said to be smaller and
faster than other browser engines and will let web developers create more dynamic web
content and applications.
AOL would like to use Netscape in its online services. The only hitch
is connected to the outcome of the Department of Justice's suit against Microsoft.
"If the little matter with Microsoft is resolved and we were allowed to carry the
browser of choice, we'd use the Gecko technology,'' said Barry Schuler, president of
interactive services for AOL. AOL already has a deal with Microsoft that requires it to
make Internet Explorer the embedded web software inside its service. The company has said
it is necessary as long as Microsoft's browser is built into Windows, the software used to
run most PCs. "Microsoft might love this so much, they may want to put their browsers
on Gecko,'' Schuler said. On Monday, the U.S. judge in the case ruled Microsoft's actions
violated antitrust laws by attempting to monopolize the browser market. "I would not
discuss anything in terms of vindication of terms of the case ... It's been a hard time
for Netscape as outlined by the judge (in the Microsoft case), but we feel great today.
We've been heads down and we're seeing the results and basking in the glory,'' Schuler
Netscape was the original first choice of web surfers owning almost 90
percent of the browser market. When Microsoft began shipping Explorer with every new
Windows PC, it was crash and burn for Netscape. Microsoft now owns nearly 70 percent of
the browser market. However since both browsers are available free, there seems to be no
need for competition. "It's not really a contest any more. The browser wars are
over," said David Moskowitz, president of Productivity Solutions, an IT consultancy
in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Harry Fenik, executive vice president for Zona Research
in Redwood City, California agreed, adding that most users don't know the difference or
care. "When we were doing market studies, the most consistent response we got was
"I don't care," Fenik said. "IT managers would sometimes respond with,
"We will only accept IE" or, "We will only accept Netscape." But users
didn't seem to care one way or another by and large."
The new Netscape is only 5MB compared to the older version which used
of 16MB of space on one's hard drive. It has been completely re-written from open source.
The biggest difference is that it is built utilizing XML (Extensible Markup Language). The
XML architecture allows the look, feel, and functionality in the browser to be changed
apart from the data itself, so the interface can be reworked without resending an entire
new page. "AOL's whole business is predicated on a client that is very heavy-duty and
does a huge number of things on its own," Fenik said. "By using the Netscape
engine components, they'll be able to build their entire experience with a much smaller
client based on this XML-based browser and serve things up faster and change things more
quickly." Among the new features in Netscape 6.0 is MySidebar, a
browser-within-a-browser that keeps open one window, such as a newswire or a stock ticker,
while you surf in the main window. MySidebar is customizable to add user-defined content.
CNN, EBay, and The New York Times are among the early supporters of the sidebar feature.
The browser is also integrated with AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM). You can automatically
log in when you start Netscape 6.0, and if an AIM user emails you, you can respond via the
email client or send an instant message if they are online. AOL Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer Steve Case said during a keynote speech at the conference: ``We hope
you'll agree that the Netscape magic is back.'' Said Jim Martin, general manager of
Netscape Netcenter: ''This is going to put Netscape back on the cutting edge of the
Internet. We've been quiet for some time.''