Netscape users pan standalone Navigator

A Web browser giant is being accused by users of manipulating its audience with tactics that have nothing to do with their best interests. And this time it's Netscape.

The standalone release of Navigator 4.02 earlier this week has led to a huge amount of flak in the Netscape user community, most of it concerning the surprise absence of a newsgroup reader and e-mail client in the product.

The centre of the storm was the Netscape Navigator User Group where most users seem to have been unaware of the lack of news and mail features when they downloaded the browser. "How do you open the e-mail window in the standalone?" asked one typical query.

Several mailers expressed anger and disappointment with Netscape. "If they're not going to provide SOME way to get to their news servers then they should stop peppering their support page with snews:// URLS... Let's put it this way. Maybe THEY thought it was never intended to have mail or news, but that only means it started out as a stupid idea and no-one within the organisation fixed it before release."

One mailer opined that Netscape had taken out the wrong elements from the Communicator suite. "What a lot of people want is no more than what they had with [Navigator] 3.0, myself included. I couldn't give a flying fig about Netcaster (if I want channels.. I'll watch TV), Composer, Collabra etc... What I like.. liked about Netscape was that they weren't Microsoft. They didn't used to try to force this kind of bloatware on everyone, and most people didn't need any sort of support to runt he product. Now it's an all or nothing proposition."

Netscape defenders were few and far between although one submission did stress that: "Navigator 4.02 is a browser only. It was intended to satisfy the public outcry for a standalone browser that did not carry the excess baggage of a mail and news client so that they could use their own specially configured [clients] across a network, for instance in kiosk mode. Now, go to bed without your milk and cookies!!!"

Far more frequent, however, were those who ascribed dark motives to Netscape. One user remarked: "Thank God I stopped by this newsgroup before installing the standalone 4.02 I just spent an hour downloading... if it isn't the basic same program as 3.01, with mail and news capabilities, it certainly is of no use to me, and probably several million other users. I will be deleting the 7.5 meg executable, without installing it first, as soon a I log off."

Another said: "This has nothing to do with what YOU want. It's what Netscape's 'partners' want. Lotus doesn't want Netscape to include mail and news because it competes with Lotus's product. Netscape stripped out mail and news not to please you and me, but to persuade Lotus to bundle Navigator with Lotus Notes or whatever."

There was more ordure for Netscape from the official VRML mailing list for the lack of support for VRML in the standalone Navigator: "Netscape may have had to make a business decision to unbundle Navigator from Communicator to keep IBM, HP and Oracle happy. Fine. That has nothing to do with native VRML support, however (geez, you think those three companies have no interest in VRML??? hull-LO?)."

Another wrote: "Netscape is about to embark on a 'Netscape Everywhere' marketing initiative, an effort to try to get 100 million copies of Navigator (sans VRML) out into the home market. That's 100 million people who will still, after all our time and effort, have to go get a plug-in to view VRML. Lovely."

Neither was the standalone Navigator a complete success with those who didn't mind the feature set. Several contributors to newsgroups complained about problems with Java support and memory leaks.