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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Netscape offers 'hybrid' browser
Netscape logo
Netscape lost browser war to Microsoft
Veteran net firm Netscape has released a new version of its browser.

Its focus is on security, with features to protect consumers from malicious software and online scams.

Netscape 8.0 is described as a "hybrid" browser, allowing users to click between both Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and rival open source web browser Firefox.

The dominant browser in the early nineties, Netscape has since lost out almost entirely to Microsoft.

Spyware and phishing

Since its acquisition by America Online, Netscape has become most well-known for the highly-publicised legal tussle with Microsoft, which saw the software giant accused of anti-competitive behaviour.

The case was finally settled in 2003 and part of the agreement allowed America Online to use IE code without paying royalties for seven years.

Firefox logo
Netscape 8 is based on Firefox 1.0.3

Much of the new Netscape browser is based on Firefox 1.0.3 but, taking advantage of its anti-trust deal, it will also support IE.

It is hoped that this will iron out problems people have encountered when using the Firefox browser on sites that have been designed specifically to support IE.

The Mozilla Foundation that developed Firefox was set up by Netscape programmers in 1998.

Firefox has gradually been nibbling away at Microsoft's dominant market share, attracting users because it has, so far, had fewer security flaws and is more customisable.

"The [Netscape] browser is like a hybrid car that combines the usability of Internet Explorer with the security of Firefox," said Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for Netscape, which is owned by Time Warner's America Online.

Developers claim Netscape offers protection against spyware - where malicious software gets installed on a PC without a user's knowledge.

Both spyware and phishing attacks - which lure users to fraudulent websites in order to steal passwords and credit card information - are causing a lot of concern for web surfers.

Free download

To lower the risk of phishing scams the Netscape browser automatically adjusts security setting based on a list of known malicious sites.

The list, which is updated three times a day, is compiled from information kept by America Online, privacy group Truste and other software firms. There are currently thousands of sites on the list.

Users will be alerted to malicious sites via a red shield on the browser tab. Users can still go to the site but it will appear using the Firefox engine, with features such as cookies and JavaScript turned off.

Other features of Netscape 8.0 include improved support for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and the ability to have multiple websites as a home page.

Netscape 8.0 - which has been available in a test mode since February - can be downloaded free from the Netscape website from 19 May.

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