AOL launches new Netscape browser

Summary:After nine months in the works, AOL Time Warner's upgrade to the notoriously buggy Netscape 6 browser is finally ready for download.

AOL Time Warner released the first final upgrade to its notoriously buggy Netscape 6 browser, promising a smoother and faster ride for Netscape loyalists.

The upgrade comes nearly nine months after the AOL Time Warner unit released Netscape 6, which itself was two-and-a-half years in the making. That browser, Netscape's first based on the Mozilla.org open-source development effort, was roundly judged to be not ready for prime time.

Now Netscape is calling Netscape 6.1--a beta of which appeared in June--a vast improvement over the buggy 6.0 release.

The upgrade "greatly enhances the performance and stability of Netscape 6.0," Netscape promised in a statement accompanying the release.

Most of the past nine months' work has been fixing bugs and improving performance and stability, according to sources close to Netscape.

Other changes include a new cache for storing frequently accessed files, an upgraded mail program, new search functionality, and--borrowing a page from competitor Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser--drop-down auto-complete for Web page forms.

With Version 6.1, Netscape is capable of rendering Hebrew characters, which are read right-to-left. The browser also supports Arabic characters when run on Microsoft's Windows operating system in Arabic. The browser's AutoTranslate feature now includes Russian, and translates between European languages.

Whether Netscape 6.1 can rally the Netscape faithful remains to be seen. While Netscape 6 encountered first delays and then scathing reviews, Microsoft assembled an overwhelming lead in the browser market.

Netscape also is releasing browsers under the shadow of comments by executives suggesting that the company is de-emphasizing its involvement in the browser business.

The upgrade is available from the Netscape Web site.

With the release, AOL also issued a Netscape 6.1 Preview for Mac OS X, Apple's new operating system released in March and due for a major upgrade next month.

News.com's Joe Wilcox contributed to this report.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Operating Systems

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