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RealTime IT News

Netscape -- Down But Not Out

Determined not to give up despite trailing miserably in the browser wars, America Online's Netscape Communications subsidiary released a preview version of Netscape 7.0 and redesigned its Netscape.com Web site.

The updated browser includes built-in AOL Instant Messaging capabilities. It runs on what Netscape called a fine-tuned Netscape Gecko browser engine that speeds the most common online activities and is optimized for searching, communicating, downloading, shopping and listening to music.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Netscape said that this release also features Radio@Netscape, accessible right from the toolbar, so Web music fans can choose from among 175 stations to find one that matches their tastes.

The Web site redesign sports "richer graphics and a streamlined design throughout the site that showcases content from AOL Time Warner online properties and other leading content partners," Netscape said, adding that the site currently draws 20 million unique visitors a month.

The Web site also features an enhanced Netscape Search powered by Google with a number of product upgrades including a streamlined design and integration of relevant editorial content from AOL Time Warner properties.

The new Netscape 7.0 Preview Release offers consumers a "Quick Launch" feature that speeds the start-up time for the browser and allows consumers to get online faster. The older version was sometimes criticized for being slower to launch than Internet Explorer 6.x, particularly for users of older computers.

Other new bells and whistles include features such as Full-Screen Mode, Tabbed Browsing, a Get Map function, Buddy Icons, Click-to-Search (allows users to search on any word or phrase in the text of a Web page without having to leave that page) and a Download Manager.

E-mail was improved to let users organize and manage all their online communications with enhancements such as Quick Search and simplified Mail Filters.

The Preview Release of Netscape 7.0 is available for free download here..

"The Netscape 7.0 browser, together with the redesigned Netscape.com, creates real value for consumers by putting the tools, services and content consumers most often use right at their fingertips, in a fully integrated way," said Joel Davidson, executive vice president of AOL's Web Properties Group.

That may well be true, but Netscape has a long, long way to go to even achieve parity with Microsoft Corp.'s dominant Internet Explorer browser, despite the oft-patched security holes in the latter.

According to developer site W3Schools, as of April of this year, IE 6.x is used by 32 percent of Web users; IE 5.x is in use by 55 percent; and IE 3.x by 3 percent. Netscape users accounted for an estimated 4 percent of the online world.

The new Netscape version is designed to replace Netscape 6.2, released in November 2001. The Preview Release is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS and Mac OS X systems.

Netscape was at the heart of the Justice Department's decision to sue Microsoft in the antitrust arena. The 1998 lawsuit -- still ongoing -- accused Microsoft of using its monopoly in Intel-based operating systems, bundling its browser with Windows, to crush Netscape.