Netscape 6 good as gold

The first browser brought to you by the Netscape-America Online combination - with help from the open source community - goes live Tuesday. But can it beat Internet Explorer?

Netscape 6 is finally being released, but critics say it offers little if any improvement over the reigning browser champ, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5.

Netscape 6.0 is the first browser developed by Netscape under the auspices of its merger with America Online. The latest version of the Netscape browser is being released online Tuesday simultaneously in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan.

The browser has been developed by Netscape engineers, in conjunction with the open-source developers who are part of the open-source Mozilla.org project. Netscape officials claim the browser allows users to access multiple email accounts, send and receive Instant Messages and is compatible with the "Instant AOL" Gateway household Internet appliance released last week.

The interface has been streamlined and stylised. Also, users can sync their Address Book with a Netcenter account and other programs.

David Flanagan, an O'Reilly & Associates technical book author, claimed there were several bugs in the final beta version of the browser, which was shipped nearly two months ago. They included breaks in compliance with HTML and cascading style sheets. Flanagan later toned down his assertions in a later missive to the Web site. Netscape officials have taken issue with Flanagan's assertions.

Netscape 6 is the company's best shot at reclaiming market share it squandered to Internet Explorer over a period of years. Microsoft's browser enjoys a 60 percent or greater share of the market, according to researchers.

But reviewers have said the new Netscape browser adds little in the way of technology not already available with IE 5.5, providing little incentive for Microsoft users to switch platforms.

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