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si-blog
the web log of Simon Jessey

Wednesday, September 18th, 2002

What is the point of the Netscape browser?

After being savaged in the browser wars, Netscape recently released version 7 of it's browser. The new version is laden with plenty of features to woo users away from the utterly dominant Internet Explorer. Tabbed browsing, that will even support the bookmarking of whole sets of tabs, is probably the most important feature, followed closely by the sidebar and the fancy download manager. Internet Explorer-esque tools like a print preview, together will speed and stability, make it a serious piece of software. The ability to view pages using the alternate style sheets that web designers may offer is a welcome addition.

The problem for Netscape, however, is Mozilla. Netscape 7.0 is based on the Gecko engine; an open-source browser (and platform wannabe) created for high performance, portability and standards-compliance. Gecko incorporates all the features that Netscape 7.0 has, as well as dozens of others. The source code is available and there have been several builds for various platforms. Chief among these builds is the Mozilla browser itself.

There are several differences between the Mozilla browser and it's Netscape sibling, the main one being the lack of Mozilla's pop-up suppressor in Netscape 7.0. Users of the Netscape version may find themselves bombarded with pop-ups, mostly advertising AOL, which shares a parent company with Netscape, who in turn are the group behind Mozilla in the first place.

Frankly, the whole situation has struck me as being a little bizarre. Because of constant releases, the Mozilla browser will always be better than the Netscape equivalent. Furthermore, it will always lack Netscape's achilles heel of banner and pop-up ads. It seems to me that Netscape is shooting themselves in the foot just a little bit.

I am uncertain as to whether or not Mozilla/Netscape will ever challenge the dominant Microsoft. Netscape tried and failed and you could argue that Java suffered the same fate. I hope that the Mozilla community, who work feverishly to create additions to the existing suite of components in development, will push Mozilla into a position to, at the very least, threaten Microsoft's dominant position. Perhaps the Redmond-based behemoth will be forced to do a more significant upgrade to Internet Explorer, since the 6.0 version doesn't really differ all that much from version 4.0; the version that did the most to kill off Netscape's dominance in the first place.

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