Developers: Thumbs up on Netscape's freebie

Netscape Communications Corp.'s decision to release free browser source code on the Internet received high marks from developers who plan to distribute it with their software.

Netscape Communications Corp.'s decision to release free browser source code on the Internet received high marks from developers who plan to distribute it with their software.

The company released an early developer's version of its Communicator 5.0 source code earlier Tuesday on its mozilla.org Web site. Netscape (NSCP) also said it would release a final version of the 5.0 browser later this year, which would incorporate the code, yet-to-be announced features and new products created by outside developers working with the code.




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"I would expect it to become the most sophisticated, best browser out there," said Michael Hickman, chief technology officer of Blue Lobster Software, which may distribute products based on the source code with its software, which links browsers to databases.

Hickman said the giveaway means more developers will be working to fix glitches in the browser and enhance its performance. "You won't have one person dictating what happens. It's going to be decided by consensus," he said.

Netscape said today the release would put the code in the hands of a team of developers it could not otherwise afford, resulting in more browser-based products and customized searching software.

Barksdale: 'major milestone'
"This is absolutely an event that's not just a major milestone for Netscape, but for the industry in general," said Jim Barksdale, Netscape CEO.

Netscape officials also hope the move will boost server sales as more Netscape-based client software hits the market.

'I would expect it to become the most sophisticated, best browser out there.'
-- Michael Hickman, Blue Lobster Software CTO

Richard Buckle, vice president of marketing for Insession, a developer of transaction processing software, said the release will let his company integrate Netscape technology into its transaction processing products.

Buckle said Netscape has been willing to offer its products to Insession and ask questions about working together in the large corporate market, unlike Microsoft, which he described as "pretty closed."

Microsoft strikes back
Meanwhile, Microsoft (MSFT) launched an offensive against the source code release Tuesday, saying it had no plans to use or "Window-ize" the product.

Craig Beilinson, product manager for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, also accused Netscape of dragging its feet by delaying its release of the actual Communicator 5.0 browser until the end of the year.

Netscape has struggling to maintain market share against an aggressive IE team -- which released the latest version of its browser last fall -- and its stock has fallen steadily since then.

Beilinson said Microsoft already allows developers to build software on top of its browser by providing developers with specific components, or pre-packaged chunks of software.

"They don't have to trudge through millions and millions of lines of source code," he said.

Developer lauds customization
But Blue Lobster's Hickman said the ability to customize the browser from the ground up is precisely the point of Netscape's giveaway.

"If you want to get in there and hack with the code, you can."

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