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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
New Netscape targets Microsoft
James Barksdale led Netscape's browser battles
Netscape was once the dominant browser
A new version of the veteran Netscape browser has been released in the latest challenge to the dominance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the standard program to surf the web.

The software has been in user tests since May and promises faster and easier navigation of the internet.

Despite recent technological advances, Netscape has been steadily losing ground to Explorer.

Microsoft controls 96% of the browser market, a big turnaround from the mid-1990s when Netscape was dominant.

'Netscape is alive'

Netscape 7.0 has been developed by media giant AOL Time Warner, which bought the company in 1998.

Microsoft's Bill Gates
Bill Gates took on Netscape
"We've been testing the browser and it's been gaining great momentum," said Netscape spokesman Marty Gordon.

"We feel we have the wind in our sails. Netscape is alive and well."

The new software is based on Netscape Gecko, a cross-platform program at the heart of the browser.

Netscape Gecko controls how a webpage appears on the screen and supports accepted web standards such as HTML, XML, Cascading Style Sheets and JavaScript.

Netscape Gecko was developed as part of an open source community called Mozilla.org.

Among the new features highlighted by Netscape 7.0 are:

  • Quick Launch to speeds start-up time for the browser
  • Tabbed Browsing to keep track of multiple sites or pages within a single window
  • Download Manager to save files, pause and resume a download
  • Click-to-Search to search on highlighted word in a webpage
  • AOL Instant Messenger built in

Fight for control

Netscape pioneered the commercial application of browsers in the early 1990s but it was left reeling after Microsoft launched an aggressive attack on the company with its Internet Explorer program.

Browser market share
Internet Explorer: 96%
Netscape: 3.4%
Mozilla and Opera: Less than 1%

Source: StatMarket
Netscape faces an uphill struggle against Explorer.

Microsoft eventually landed in court on charges of using illegal monopolistic practices to drive Netscape out of business.

Because of its market dominance, web designers generally test their pages on Explorer alone, with the result that pages sometimes do not show up properly in other browsers.

One possible lifeline could come from AOL itself.

The company has yet to decide whether to drop Explorer from the new version of AOL and replace it with Netscape, thus putting it into the hands of tens of millions of consumers.

What do you make of Netscape 7.0? Can it revive Netscape's fortunes?

I use Mozilla, which has the same browser engine as Netscape, and while I have IE on my machine I very rarely use it. Mozilla's much easier to use than IE, has the configuration options I want that protect my privacy and stop pop-up ad windows, and doesn't seem to be riddled with the security holes IE has.
Ian, UK

Netscape 7.0 is largely based on Mozilla but includes a lot of advertising stuff and attempts to tie you into to various proprietary Netscape/AOL systems. If you use Mozilla instead you get a fantastic browser without all the extraneous nonsense.
Richard, UK

Netscape 7.0 is overburdened with unnecessary programming code. The download installation file for Windows is over 30MB. For the core of Netscape, however, use Mozilla V1.1. The code is tightly packed and is not overburdened with unnecessaries. The installation file for Windows is just short of 11MB. The Mozilla.org website has instructions for downloading and is free.
G Kabakoff, USA

As a former Netscape user and webpage designer the compatibility issues you mention in your article are exactly why I stopped using Netscape. We had to write two versions of pretty much everything to ensure it was compatible with both browsers. The only way netscape can compete with IE is to ensure these incompatibilities continue to exist so Netscape can have an upper hand over IE. Unfortunately this will have the opposite effect of forcing designers to write pages for the majority browser, that is, IE, and Netscape will, once again, lose out to Microsoft.
Andy, UK

Unless Netscape comes up with something pretty special I can't see Internet Explorer being challenged at all, even if all AOL users are "forced" to use it.
Dan, UK (Portuguese national)

While typically more buggy then Mozilla, which it's based on, Netscape is still a better browser than Explorer, largely due to its closer adherence to Web standards. While IE 6 improved upon previous efforts, there's still some way to go.
Craig Grannell, Iceland

I have just become a 'former' Internet Explorer user. Netscape 's new browser makes IE6 look positively ancient.
Mas Patel, UK

Everybody says that Netscape and Mozilla do not have the security holes that IE has. But with 96% of the market, it is not surprising that these holes have been found in IE and patched. Netscape just hasn't been through the rigorous hack testing that IE has yet. But it will, if it gains market share. IE is not evil, just successful. Of course, if Netscape 7.0 is more secure then they must attribute this to the testing and work performed on IE. All competition is good in this market, so I am cheering for Netscape, but my money is on IE.
Leon Parkhouse, United States (UK expat)

Neither Netscape nor IE cut the mustard. Opera is far faster and far sleeker. Netscape has merely adopted some of its features - Opera has had multiple windows implemented for years now. It easily cuts out pop-up ads, and opens all your windows where you were if you have the occasional crash (as all browsers do). It has a far greater range of customisable options, and no tie-ins.
Kenny, Brazil

I feel that Netscape has certainly lost the war by now, whatever version 7.0 tries to do to tempt us back. I was one of the last to 'bite the bullet' and convert to IE, and was almost tempted back to Netscape by the hysteria surrounding version 6's release. Unfortunately, there are so many sites that are incompatible with it, including site's that used to work in older versions of Netscape - take the BBC news website for example, the ticker tape on the top if the page still does not work with Netscape version 6 and above.
Simon Watkins, Wales, UK

I too am a web developer, who has to use Netscape to test against new pages. I unfortunately cannot see a long future for Netscape. Even the BBC's site does not show the latest news headlines correctly in version 7.0. I just hope that Microsoft continue to lose out at the other end of the internet, the web servers.
Paul, UK

Opera is better than both Netscape & IE. It is faster and generally better organised. Some of the new features you mention in Netscape 7.0 have been in Opera for a long time. I recommend it to everyone. It can be downloaded free of charge. Check it out
Colin Briggs, Brazil

Most people I know who have to work with browsers all code for IE. A lot of the time Netscape is just ignored. Netscape is just too buggy when it come to rendering a page, issues with nested tables, frames etc. I think I'll stick with IE, it may be Microsoft but at least it works better!
Huseyin, UK

I originally used IE 6 and when I bought my new computer expected to use this with no hassle but after nothing but problems using the Java applications I chose Netscape. I have found it to be user friendly and will continue to use it. I don't feel one company should oust another, especially when because of disputes will not let you access certain sites.
Ben Smart, UK

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See also:

06 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
23 Jan 02 | Business
30 May 01 | Microsoft
10 Feb 00 | Microsoft
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