You may think that Microsoft has all but won the browser war, but both of its competitors are about to strike back. The long-awaited release of betas of new versions of Netscape’s and Opera’s browsers stirs the embers of a longstanding battle between Netscape and Microsoft, with Opera refusing to be beaten down from the sidelines.
Devotees of the Netscape browser have something to get excited about for the first time in three years. Netscape, now an AOL’s subsidiary, announced on Monday that a 6.0 beta version of its once-dominant browser will hit the Internet next month. This will replace the current Navigator 4.x line, which was launched in 1997.
Netscape representatives were tight-lipped about new features in version 6.0, but did say that the upcoming release will emphasize instant messaging, with easy access to AOL Instant Messenger buddy lists. An updated email client will also support multiple email accounts in one view. Additionally, Netscape 6.0 will provide closer ties to the company's Netcenter site. And Netscape also plans to capitalize on its browser's modular nature; other sites will offer customized versions with their own style, buttons, and features such as stock tickers or digital music players.
Netscape 6.0 is based on Gecko, Netscape's next-generation standards-based browser technology. The browsing engine, which is responsible for rendering graphics and text, is considerably smaller and somewhat faster than Netscape's previous browsers, the company said.
Gecko will be well-suited for a myriad of Internet devices such as set-top boxes and browsing appliances, Netscape said, adding that IBM, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, Nokia, and Liberate will support the browser technology.
Gecko is the first Netscape product based on contributions from Mozilla, the organization chartered with managing Netscape's open source initiative.
Netscape 6.0 will use Extensible User Interface Language, a new technology for creating user interfaces with Web programming languages, the company added.
"Netscape is once again starting an Internet revolution," said Barry Schuler, president of AOL Interactive Services, in a statement. He said Gecko is at the heart of the AOL Anywhere strategy, which seeks to give people access to the AOL stable of properties through a multitude of devices.
Opera is also trying to keep up, and has announced the release of a beta version of its Opera 4.0 Elektra for Windows Internet browser software.
Versions for software platforms other than Microsoft Windows, including the open-source Linux operating system, are also under development, the spokesman said. The release date for the commercial version of Opera 4.0 has yet to be set, he added.
Opera 4.0 is faster and easier to port to other operating systems than its predecessors, and also features several other improvements, including an email client and 128-bit encryption, the company said.
The 4.0 version will also feature support for cascading style sheets as well as SSL (secure sockets layer) versions 2 and 3, the company said.
Earlier this month, the company also released the final English-language version of Opera 3.62 for Windows, which is available for Windows operating systems ranging from 3.1 to the recently introduced 2000 iteration aimed at business users.