Netscape 6 beta due next month

Several companies will use Netscape's cross-platform Gecko browser engine for Internet devices, such as set-top boxes and browsing appliances

On Monday, America Online's (AOL) Netscape Communications subsidiary announced that the beta version of its Netscape 6 Web browser and email software will be available by mid-April.

Netscape also announced that IBM, Intel, Liberate Technologies, NetObjects, Nokia, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems will use its cross-platform Gecko browser engine for Internet devices such as set-top boxes and browsing appliances. For example, Nokia and Intel are jointly developing an Internet-enhanced TV that will allow broadcasters to provide consumers with access to new services, as well as the range already available on the Internet.

Gecko, which Netscape claims is smaller, faster and more powerful than traditional browser engines, enables Web developers to create more dynamic Web content and applications, officials said. Because it is open source, Gecko allows individual developers to tailor it to their own use, officials said. The engine is bolstered by contributions from mozilla.org, the organisation that manages Netscape's open source initiative on behalf of thousands of Internet developers.

Gecko will also be used in AOL brands; officials said AOL is building Gecko support into future instant messaging clients. AOLTV, which will run on the Liberate platform, will include Gecko, giving users a Web experience similar to a PC, but with the added multimedia richness of TV, they added.

In addition, Netscape announced the availability of XUL (XML-based user interface language), a new, open source XML (Extensible Markup Language) application that, according to officials, makes it easier to develop a customisable user interface across multiple desktop platforms and devices.

XUL uses XML to describe the features, objects and layout of a traditional desktop application user interface, officials said. It also supports these common Web standards -- HTML, Cascading Style Sheets, the World Wide Web Consortium's Document Object Model and JavaScript.

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