AOL nearing Netscape release

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

AOL Time Warner is close to releasing 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 Netscape 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 sources close to Netscape are calling Netscape 6.1--a beta of which appeared in June--a vast improvement over the buggy 6.0 release. Most of the last nine months' work has been fixing bugs and improving performance and stability, according to sources.

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.

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.

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