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RealTime IT News

Netscape Is Back on AOL's Drawing Board

America Online said it plans to release an updated prototype of its once-popular Netscape Navigator browser, using code from its distant cousin, once-removed: Mozilla's Firefox.

The move is another attempt to revive the once-mighty Netscape brand amid rising new interest in alternative browsers.

The prototype, which will be released by the end of the month to a limited number of beta testers, is expected to follow much of the functionality and format of Mozilla's Firefox browser.

AOL officials said they have not set a schedule for the final market release and would not disclose what version number the product would receive.

A note from the browser team on the Netscape portal site provides few insights about what to expect. But its engineers took the opportunity to mock Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser, which has had security problems.

"We are excited that, on Nov. 30, we will unveil many new features that will empower your Internet experience," the note read. "While other browsers have seen little improvement over recent years--except frequent patches for security leaks--we have consistently added new features to save you time and to make the most out of your time online. As a part of our next evolutionary step, we have developed this new browser prototype, which could change the way the world masters the Web."

Since the release of Firefox 1.0 on Nov. 9th, the Mozilla Foundation claims 8 million downloads. But Microsoft's IE currently dominates the market with at least 90 percent of the market share.

As previously reported, the Mozilla open source browser, from which Firefox is spun, was open sourced by Netscape in 1998. The project spun off from AOL's Netscape division in July 2003 to form the Mozilla Foundation.

AOL developers last rolled out an updated version of the Netscape browser, version 7.2. in August, which brought it up to date with Mozilla 1.7.

AOL is also working on AOL Browser, a stand-alone browser based on Microsoft's own IE technology. A source familiar with the testing told internetnews.com in October that the browser will include an "extra layer of features" on top of IE 6.0, including: pop-up controls, tabbed windows, built-in access to AOL Search and AOL Desktop Search.