A few years ago, the browser wars between Microsoft and Netscape were guaranteed to create headlines almost every month. Now everyone takes for granted that Internet Explorer is the standard for Web browsing – and all other browsers are niche products.
However, with the fruits of the Netscape/AOL merger available soon the war may be back on. Here’s the contenders:
Netscape 6, Preview Release 1, is the radically altered (and eagerly awaited) spawn of the AOL-Netscape merger and its Gecko project. Unlike the more businesslike browser in Communicator 4.7, Netscape 6 features a smaller footprint (it's less than half the size of its predecessor if you can live without Java support), as well as an e-mail client and instant messaging program from America Online. It offers new search tools, an improved cookie manager, and an interface that you can customize with a variety of skins. Perhaps most important, it's built on the Gecko engine, which promises to render graphics and text faster. This (relatively buggy) preview is the long-awaited successor to version 4.x (Netscape skipped directly to version 6).
Netscape Communicator is latest complete release of Netscape's Web browser and Internet communications suite has the look and feel you're familiar with, but it has some new programs bundled (such as AOL Instant Messenger and the Winamp MP3 player version 2.6) and offers support for more file types. The download also includes PalmPilot synch tools and 56-bit encryption for secure transactions. Several other applications come integrated, as well, namely: Netscape Messenger, an email client and contact manager; Netscape Composer, an HTML and text editor; and RealPlayer G2, a streaming audio and video player.
The newest version of Internet Explorer, 5.5, features a smaller footprint, faster rendering, and automatic Web form completion. It includes Outlook Express, NetMeeting, and FrontPage Express, and it offers expanded support for Dynamic HTML, Java, and the Channel Definition Format.
Opera, smaller than Netscape and Internet Explorer, lets you open multiple windows without running out of memory, zoom in and out of pages, and navigate entirely with your keyboard. It's particularly useful on older PCs (386SX with 6MB RAM minimum). The downside is that unlike other browsers, Opera's not free.
NeoPlanet allows users to personalize your surfing experience with a stylish, customizable browser front end; allow Explorer to wear tons of different skins. Neoplanet integrates browsing, advanced searching, and Web directory support for fast access to favourite sites. Other features include a built-in email client, multiple user profiles, and Flash support. This version lets you create chat groups, or NetClubs, and it includes bug fixes.