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Science & Technology
Netscape 6 Unleashed

 

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" The Nasdaq Phenomenon"

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 Model, HTML 4.0, Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript. It will also contain the Gecko 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 told reporters.

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.''