Netscape 6.2 Browser-Suite Released
Mike Angelo -- 30 October 2001 (c)
Netscape 6.2 follows Netscape 6.1 (NS 6.1), which was released nearly twelve weeks ago on 8 August 2001. For more information about Netscape 6.1 (NS 6.1), please see our article, Netscape 6.1 Browser-Suite Released.
Netscape 6.0/6.01 a Losing Battle in the Browser WarStarting with the first Netscape 6 preview release (Netscape 6 PR1), in April 2000 and then through the NS 6 PR 2, NS 6 PR3, Netscape 6.0 and Netscape 6.01 editions, Netscape 6.x has come under heavy criticism from the computer trade press, consumers, loyal Netscape fans, and developers.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer kicked Netscape off the Windows desktop some time ago. Please see our two part series, Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? Part I: Linux Could Be Netscape's Last Browser Battlefield and Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6?
Even AOL Rejects Netscape
Perhaps the even worse news for the Netscape folks is that its own parent company, AOL-Time-Warner rejected Netscape 6.1. AOL selected Microsoft Internet Explorer instead of Netscape 6.1 for its newly released AOL 7.0 client software. AOL has some 31-million users. Because AOL selected Internet Explorer (IE) instead of Netscape for its AOL 7.0 client software, Microsoft IE gets 31-million users that Netscape does not get.
Moreover, it's likely that AOL will not use the Netscape browser in future AOL client software releases. Rather it appears that AOL will use only the Netscape Gecko rendering and layout engine - but not the Netscape browser per se.
AOL already is experimenting with Gecko in its CompuServe client software beta. For more information about AOL's rejection of the Netscape browser and its plans for Gecko technology, please see our article AOL 7.0: Good News for AOL Users & Microsoft - Bad News for Netscape & Mozilla
Can Netscape 6.1/6.2 Save Netscape in the Browser War?
The pressure is on AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division to win back all the consumers, discouraged loyal Netscape fans, and developers that it has lost since the release of Netscape 6 PR1. It also needs to convince the Linux distribution packagers that Netscape 6.2 is worthy of the Linux desktop.
That could be a difficult task. So far, the major Linux packagers seem to prefer Mozilla to Netscape 6.x. Also, the major Linux distribution packagers include the KDE desktop and its Konqueror browser. Konqueror is a very nice browser and file manager, which is well-integrated into the KDE desktop. For more information about that please see our article Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 -- A First Look.
You Be the Judge
Will Netscape 6.2 be able to meet that Herculean challenge? You be the judge. Download a copy of Netscape 6.2 and see for yourself. (Download links further down.)
However, Netscape 6.1 might have been just what was needed to start putting the Netscape browser suite back on track. For example, the recent SuSE Linux 7.3 operating system (OS) distribution includes both Netscape 4.78 and Netscape 6.1.
We discussed some Linux desktop and browser issues with Holger Dyroff, director of sales at SuSE's U.S. operation, by phone and by e-mail. He emphasized that SuSE tries to include tools and applications the customers/users want and to give its customers/users lots of choices. In part that is why SuSE has not dropped the Netscape browser.
MozillaQuest Magazine: Are Mozilla or Netscape included in [SuSE Linux] 7.3?
Holger Dyroff: We have included Netscape 4.78, Netscape 6.1, Mozilla 0.9.4, Konqueror and Opera and our customers should choose which one to use. As Netscape is a very popular software we don't have intention to drop support for it.
The initial Netscape 6.0 browser suite was made available for public downloading on 9 November 2000, nearly twelve months ago. Then on 8 February 2001, the Netscape Division placed its Netscape 6.01 browser-suite upgrade on its FTP servers. Netscape 6.1 Preview Release 1 was made available for public downloading on 13 June 2001. On 8 August 2001, AOL-Time-Warner 's Netscape Division made its Netscape 6.1 browser suite availabe for downloading. And now, Netscape 6.2 is available for your scrutiny, and hopefully your Web browsing pleasure.
What's New in Netscape 6.2
According to the Netscape 6.2 Release Notes here is what's new in NS 6.2:
The Netscape 6 browser suite is based upon the cross-platform (XP), open source, Mozilla browser-suite. The current Milestone Mozilla browser-suite release is Mozilla 0.9.5. It was released 12 October 2001. However, Netscape 6.2 is based on the now six-weeks-old Mozilla 0.9.4.
Netscape Quick Launch feature
The fairly new Netscape Quick Launch feature for the Windows edition loads some core Mozilla code when the system is booted. That means that Netscape will start more quickly when you open it because some of the Mozilla code already is loaded into Windows Memory. (Windows Memory includes both actual physical RAM memory plus virtual, swap file, memory on a hard drive.)
Quick Launch in Netscape 6 is meant to try to make Netscape 6 more competitive with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which seems to start more quickly than does Netscape 6.
The upside to Quick Launch is that Netscape 6 starts faster than it would without Quick Launch mode. One downside to Quick Launch mode is that it adds a few seconds to the amount of time it takes Windows to boot.
Another downside is that you waste resources by using the Quick Launch mode until you use, and if you actually decide to use, Netscape for that session. (Session is the period from the time that you start your computer until you turn it off or reboot.)
MozillaQuest Magazine recommends that you NOT enable Quick-Launch mode -- because the downsides outweigh the upside. The Mozilla folks call Quick-Launch turbo mode. For a more thorough discussion of Quick-Launch, please see our article Turbo Mode & Bugs Slow Mozilla Development to Snail's Pace.
The Good and the Bugs in Netscape 6.2
All told, the Mozilla browser suite upon which Netscape 6.2 is based is a nice browser. And it has come a long way since early February, which is when Netscape 6.01 was released.
However, there are nearly 3,900 bugs in Mozilla, using conservative bug counting techniques -- many more (16,000+) if you apply less conservative bug counting techniques. That's too many bugs for a commercial product.
Earlier today, there was one bug targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.4, one bug targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.5, 1,082 bugs targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.6, 706 bugs targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.7, 196 bugs targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.8, 88 bugs targeted to Mozilla Milestone 0.9.9, and 1,778 bugs targeted to Mozilla 1.0. That's a total of 3,851 bugs targeted to these sevin, work-in-progress, Mozilla releases.
The comparable bug count when the Netscape developers took over the Mozilla 0.9.2 branch to prepare Netscape 6.1 was 2,915 bugs. That suggests that Netscape 6.2 could be even buggier than Netscape 6.1
Incidentally, there are some 5,257 bugs targeted to Future Mozilla releases. Please see the bugs list in the right-hand sidebar on the MozillaQuest Magazine front page (mozillaquest.com) for the updated Mozilla bug counts. To learn more about how many bugs there are in the Netscape 6.2 and Mozilla Web browser suites, and to learn how the Mozilla and Netscape developers are sweeping bugs under the carpet, please see Mozilla 0.9.3 Branched Behind Schedule & Buggy.
For more information about the Mozilla browser-suite and downloading it, please see our recent article Mozilla Milestone 0.9.5 Browser-Suite Released. For updated Mozilla bug counts, please see the right sidebar on the MozillaQuest Magazine front page (mozillaquest.com).