RealTime IT News

Netscape's Official New Browser is Out

AOL developers have rolled out a new version of its venerable Netscape browser, version 7.2.

Officials say the new Netscape has plenty of features: faster rendering speeds and startup, pop-up blocking, password manager, vCard support, a Flash 7 plug-in, and table editing support.

However, the bulk of the Netscape overhaul comes from the Mozilla Foundation's browser technology, Mozilla 1.7.2, which is a combination Web browser, e-mail client and HTML editor. Outside of the vCard support for Netscape Mail and the Flash plug-in, most of the Netscape enhancements come from Mozilla's 1.7 release.

"Netscape has always had a loyal base of users and we would expect that many will upgrade to the new version of the browser and we look forward to continuing building on their support," said Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesperson.

Scuttlebutt had the release of Netscape 7.2 set for Aug. 3, but a PC takeover flaw was discovered the day of the rumored launch on the Mozilla and Netscape platforms. Mozilla 1.7.2 was released to fix those security flaws. Weinstein said Netscape 7.2 has always had a mid-August launch date; the Aug. 3 launch rumor came from one of its partners, who had posted CD ordering information on its Web site.

The latest version from Netscape Communications, which is part of AOL, comes amid continued speculation over the future of the browser. Last year, AOL announced that Mozilla.org Tuesday would separate from one-time browser parent Netscape Communications and move the development operations under the roof of non-profit group The Mozilla Foundation.

At the launch of the Mozilla Foundation, AOL fired 50 of the developers working on the Netscape browser, many of whom moved over to the open source project. A team of developers continues to work on the Netscape brand, which includes the browser, Web site and ISP service. Weinstein wouldn't say how many people remain on that team. Weinstein said company officials have not discussed plans for continuing Netscape updates but that doesn't mean Netscape 7.2 is the last update.

"We've always said that it's a valuable brand name and property and we will continue to take advantage of it," he said. "I can't offer expectations of what's going to happen in the marketplace but we're going to continue to promote it and reach out to past and future Netscape users."

The landscape has changed in the PC browser market since Netscape's departure, which could be good news for AOL's resurgent browser involvement. A recent spate of IE vulnerabilities has other browsers looking to snag disgruntled IE users, such as Mozilla's Firefox .9 and Opera.

Both organizations are teaming up on browser standards(Web Forms 2.0 and plug-in compatibility) to increase their browser market share.

Netscape has some catching up to do in that department. According to statistics at W3Schools.com, all versions of Netscape make up just 2 percent of the browser market, the same as Opera. Mozilla continues to chip away at IE's browser dominance and holds 14.6 percent of the mind share of browsers surveyed. IE 5 and IE 6 still account for nearly 78 percent of the market, though that figure has dwindled since 2002, when IE accounted for 95 percent of the market, according to W3Schools.com.

Users can download Netscape 7.2 here.