Untitled Document
Netscape 6
us: beta now
europe: beta now
japan: beta now
web site:


24:aug//2K - netscape 6 preview release 2


Lets face facts, Netscape 4 sucks - everyone expect the most ardent Microsoft haters will admit it, Microsoft Internet Explorer is the superior product. Why anyone would choose to use such a clearly inferior piece of software defies belief, especially since they are both free.

Having to cater for those people who don't use IE just leaves people like me with a headache - designing web pages to work in Netscape is like trying to wake up a dead man, its practically impossible. Find a lovely feature in Dreamweaver, you can bet your bottom dollar it will work in IE, but in Netscape? Don't count on it.

Netscape 6 (basically Netscape 5, why 6? you got me...) promises to make up the huge gap that has grown between the two rival browsers. It is supposed to be "the most customizable, convenient and connected browser" to quote the marketing crap on the Netscape website. Basically it wants to be a "cool" version of Internet Explorer that downloads quicker but considering how bloated Microsoft code usually is that can't be too tricky.

I downloaded the first preview version a couple of months ago and initially I was impressed - it did look cool and certainly if it came down to how the browser looked I would use it every time. However, looks count for little really and eventually all the flaws came out from behind the sofa.

For a browser that is supposed to adhere to standards, Netscape doesn't - no matter what was agreed on at some conference or another by a bunch of stuffy programmer types, the only standard on the web is Internet Explorer. Netscape 6 should be able to do everything IE5 does only better - the first preview didn't.

It still had difficulty displaying WM.V2 site design while I was working on it - I mean I use an industry standard package to develop the site in Dreamweaver 3, surely a new browser should be able to display the page correctly? Obviously not. Images sometimes appeared with gaps between them and where they should have been - some sort of silly margin thing I guess. But the worst thing was that it still didn't support CSS right - the font and link effects didn't display right which is damn annoying (especially since the default font colour is black and the background on WM.V2 is the same!). It also didn't some of the more advanced Flash features, but I presume this may be down to the plugin version supplied with the browser.

There are a few nice points though - the "My Sidebar" is a great idea (taken from of course, the history/favorites bar in IE), it provides an area where you can get realtime news feeds, use search engines and most importantly (for me at least) access your AIM buddy list - no more annoying multiple windows cluttering the screen. I really hope this gets added for Internet Explorer 6, except that it should let you include ICQ within the browser. It does take up page display space, but for sites designed for 800x600 it isn't a problem.

Preview Release 2 did something I wasn't expecting - surprised me. I didn't think they would have done very much except make the code more stable. They have however, and addressed most of my concerns listed above - CSS now works better, if not to the same level as IE, but it no longer distracts from the design as it had before. They have added a skinning feature, by which you can completely overhaul the look of the browser with your own images - something I don't see a need for but I guess some people will like it.

I'm actually quite impressed, it looks good and works fairly well. Hopefully the final version will bring it into line with IE5 and make Microsoft sweat a bit more for version 6. As it is, if you use IE you won't be tempted to switch but if Netscape is your thing, then get it now and put the mess of version 4 out to pasture.

//agi. [agi@fsmail.net]