RealTime IT News

Netscape 5.0 Preview Points to Smaller Devices

Netscape Communications Corp. is preparing future generations of its browser technology for an expected surge in smaller, portable IP devices.

The company will release later this week the first preview of its next-generation browser engine which is designed to be small enough to fit on a floppy disk. Code-named "Gecko," the browser is the first formal Netscape release to incorporate work from the open-source project called Mozilla.org.

"Gecko shows the direction we're headed," said Netscape Group Manager Eric Byunn in an exclusive preview for Internet.com. "But there's a fair amount of work still to be done."

Gecko represents a complete re-write of the browser engine. Additional modules will be added on by Netscape to create Communicator 5.0 or by third-party developers who are creating their own customized versions of the browser. The applications programming interface (API) is based on an adaptation of the COM (common object model).

The Gecko release just barely fits on a floppy. The file received by Internet.com was 1.4 megabytes in a ZIP format; expanded, the size was 3.06M. The preview release did not include plug-ins, e-mail support or SSL (secure sockets layer) support. Netscape claims the Gecko engine is several times faster than previous releases of Communicator and Navigator.

Informal testing of the pre-release version at Internet.com did reveal the browser was noticeably faster than recent releases of Communicator. During a test run, pages at a number of sites displayed more quickly than with other browsers. The software is stripped-down to browsing essentials, however. There is no bookmark or history feature. You can display page source and search in a page, but you cannot save a page, print or edit preferences.

Netscape plans to offer the preview version for download by the end of the week. The final product, expected to be called Communicator 5.0, is not likely to be released until February 1999 or later.