Devotees of the Netscape browser have something to get excited about for the first time in three years. Netscape, now an America Online subsidiary, recently announced that a 6.0 beta version of its once-dominant browser will hit the Internet in April. This will replace the current Navigator 4.x line, which was launched in 1997.
The long-awaited release stirs the embers of a longstanding battle between Netscape and Microsoft, with its dominant Internet Explorer browser.
Netscape representatives were tight-lipped about new features in version 6.0, but did say that the upcoming release will emphasise instant messaging, with easy access to AOL Instant Messenger buddy lists. An updated e-mail client will also support multiple e-mail accounts in one view.
Additionally, Netscape 6.0 will provide closer ties to the company's Netcenter site. Netscape also plans to capitalise on its browser's modular nature; other sites will offer customised 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 myriad Internet devices such as set-top boxes and browsing appliances, Net-scape 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 organisation 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.