Netscape to Blend Portal, Browser Offerings
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With the announcement today of its Netcenter 2.0 initiative and new "Smart Browsing" offerings, Netscape Communications Corporation is taking steps to more closely integrate its portal site with future editions of the company's Communicator and Navigator client software.
The next generation of the Netcenter site, which has been the focus of a recent shift in strategy as Netscape aims to compete more closely in the emerging portal market, will incorporate the new Smart Browsing features, a range of new channels, and a "My Netscape" service.
The "My Netscape" offering, which follows in the footsteps of portal players such as Yahoo! (My Yahoo!) and Excite (My Excite), will allow users to build personal start pages that launch with customized features and information of specific interest to the user.
"My Netscape" will also feature a SmartUpdate service that Netscape said will enable users to automatically update Communicator client software in addition to software from 22 other partners.
The company said the kickoff phase of Smart Browsing will feature three main components--Internet Keywords, What's Related and NetWatch--with more features to be added as the service evolves.
In an effort to provide users with a "short cut" to Web addresses, Netscape said Internet Keywords will allow users to access sites by typing simple keywords into the Netscape Navigator location bar.
For example, a Communicator user looking for "Volkswagen Beetle" might simply insert "vw beetle" into the Navigator location bar to be delivered to a site that represents the closest match.
Inserting a broader topic may direct a user to one of Netscape's co-branded channels on Netcenter, or if no clear match is found, to Netscape Net Search to conduct a standard search.
In what comprises a more advanced version of the bookmarking feature, the What's Related offering is designed to provide "live" links to Web sites via a drop-down menu on the Netscape Navigator location bar.
Designed in conjunction with Alexa Internet, the What's Related feature delivers links to other Web sites that are directly related to the Web address that a user is currently visiting, and are automatically loaded and displayed in a drop-down menu.
The NetWatch feature of "Smart Browsing," which will be supported in future versions of the Netscape Navigator browser, provides parents with a content screening tool based on the RSACi and SafeSurf PICS-compliant rating systems.
NetWatch is designed to detect content ratings embedded in particular Web pages to guard against adult language, violence, and nudity.
Netscape said all of the new Smart Browsing services will be freely available in future versions of Communicator and Navigator, with additional product features slated for release in the coming months.
"As Netscape Netcenter continues its rapid evolution as a major Internet portal site, we will increasingly leverage our unique ability to blend dynamic, Web-based services with our market-leading Netscape Communicator client software," said Mike Homer, executive vice president and general manager of Netscape's Netcenter division, in a statement.
"Because of this integration with Communicator, we believe that Smart Browsing will become as popular and successful as other integrated services such as Net Search, ultimately making it easier for millions of users to find the information they need on the Net."