NeoPlanet Working on Mozilla-Based Browser

NeoPlanet Inc., maker of the NeoPlanet browser, is gearing up to release a Mozilla-based browser early next year, in the process making its product available to Mac OS and Linux users.

“I think we will probably have a beta release sometime in January,” said Drew Cohen, chief executive officer of NeoPlanet. “The first production release will probably be in February.”

The current NeoPlanet browser — based on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer code — is one of the most popular alternative browsers on the Net, with more than 1.3 million total downloads from CNET’s

But NeoPlanet is also an enthusiastic supporter of the open source Mozilla project — born from Netscape’s code. Last April the company released a preview browser based on Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine, though certain components of that release still relied on IE. Cohen said the Mozilla version the company is working on now will be based entirely on Mozilla code. That is significant because it will enable the browser to truly function on a cross-platform basis, and, in the case of Linux, it will allow the company to work with device manufacturers to mold products for their devices.

NeoPlanet’s business plan is in large part based on creating branded products for its third-party partners — for instance taking the NeoPlanet browser and forming it into a Lycos browser or a Universal Studios browser. Cohen is anticipating that companies contemplating a partnership with NeoPlanet will like having a choice between IE- and Mozilla- based browsers.

“We want to offer them a choice,” he said. “We expect some of our partners to still use IE and some of them to use a Mozilla version and some of them to use both.”

That sort of choice is also a strategy that America Online’s Netscape division, which just released the Mozilla-based Netscape 6.0, is pursuing. But Cohen said NeoPlanet will offer its partners even more choices. While Netscape has buttons and features designed to drive users of the browser back to Netscape’s pages, Cohen said NeoPlanet’s version would customize those features for its partners, driving users to a my.lycos page rather than a my.netcenter page for instance.

“There will be a lot of features that let a customer customize it and drive back to their pages and services,” Cohen said.

He added that the NeoPlanet browser will have a cleaner user interface than Netscape 6.0, which he felt was not ready for prime time when it was released a few weeks ago.

“We were a little bit surprised when Netscape launched at that time because we felt the code probably wasn’t ready,” he said. He added, however, “We certainly applaud the leadership Netscape has taken with Mozilla…we’re still very big proponents of Netscape as a leader for the Mozilla effort.”

Cohen also noted that Mozilla is more than just code for a browser, it’s an application development environment. He said NeoPlanet is working on cross-platform applications other than browsers, and is in talks with interested companies about creating such applications.

“We’re in the midst of negotiations on a few of those but we haven’t closed those deals,” he said. However, he did offer a brief glimpse of the direction in which the company is moving with the applications. “There’s none that we have ready to talk about publicly yet, but they are much more verticalized applications that may have a Web browsing component but aren’t generalized Web browsers.”

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