It's autumn cleaning time at AOL's Netscape division.
Netscape is fumigating many bugs from its third and final preview version of its Netscape 6 browser. The company expects to release Netscape 6 later this fall. Netscape is also unveiling a redesigned Netscape.com, highlighting simpler access to small-business services and applications
Netscape Preview Release 3 is the fruit of a nearly three-year effort to rebuild the browser from the ground. Programmers everywhere were welcome to contribute to the open-source development project, dubbed Mozilla.
Netscape 6 is distinct from previous Netscape browsers. Netscape 6 abandons Communicator's HTML rendering engine in favor of the newer and nimbler Gecko browser technology. The Gecko engine renders graphics and text and promises faster surfing. Since its development the Gecko Web rendering engine has been licensed by a number of developers for use in everything from cable set-top boxes, Internet appliances, and handheld devices.
Netscape Preview Release 3 is available as a free download from the site. It takes up roughly 16MB and is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux operating systems. This prerelease edition follows the August Preview Release 2 browser.
Despite Netscape's promise to eradicate bugs, during a cursory review of the browser Digit labs staff stumbled on plenty. Its email client crashed several times, as did the browser, when they tried to print a Web page.
Another problem cropped up when they attempted to run Java applications. It got hung up when they tried using MSN.com's Java-based gaming site and when I tried running AOL.com's "AIM Express," a Java-based version of AOL Instant Messenger. In both cases, the Java app wouldn't run properly. They were instructed to install the Java plug-in, which failed to install.
AOL's error message states, "AIM Express has not been extensively tested with this version of this browser software".
Labs staff couldn't distinguish any difference in Web page load times when testing Netscape 6 against Internet Explorer 5.5 and Netscape's 4.72 Communicator browser. Overall, though, the Netscape 6 Preview is more stable than earlier versions.