Netscape 7.0 Browser-Suite Released
Mike Angelo -- 29 August 2002 (c)
Netscape 7.0-PR1 (NS 7.0-PR1) was made available for public downloading on 22 May 2002. It was based on the Mozilla 1.0-RC2 source code. The Mozilla 1.0.1-RC1 or RC2 souce code likely is the base for Netscape 7.0.
Netscape 6.2 followed Netscape 6.1 (NS 6.1), which was released nearly twelve weeks ealrlier 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 7.0 will be replacing Netscape 6.2.3 in the AOL-Netscape browser-suites line-up. Netscape 6.2.3 is based on Mozilla 0.9.4.1 code -- rather outdated code by now. Since the release of Mozilla 0.9.4 there has been substantial polish improvement in the code-base. Many bugs have been squashed -- although there are more bugs now than then. Some neat new features have been added.
The reason Netscape editions are tied to Mozilla browser-suite releases is that the basic Netscape browser suite is built on top of the underlying Mozilla browser-suite code. The AOL-Netscape developers grab the Mozilla source code. Then they customize it and tweak it to suit their objectives. And they add the AOL-Netscape bloatware such as AIM, Net2Phone, portal stuff, and so forth to produce a Netscape suite.
Many of the pros and cons discussed in our comprehensive Mozilla 1.0 coverage also apply to Netscape 7.0.
Netscape 6.0/6.01 Was 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 came under heavy criticism from the computer trade press, consumers, loyal Netscape fans, and developers. Earlier this year, The four dominant Linux distribution packagers, Caldera, Mandrake, Red Hat, and SuSE had declined to include Netscape 6.0/6.01 in their Linux Distributions. Rather, they opted to include Netscape 4.7x. That pretty much kicked Netscape 6 off the Linux desktop.
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 got 31-million users that Netscape did 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 AOL and CompuServe client software betas. 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 7.0 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 7 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 7 be able to meet that Herculean challenge? You be the judge. Download a copy of Netscape 7.0 and see for yourself. (Download links on page 2.)
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 shortly after the SuSE Linux 7.3 release. 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, more than a year 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. Then on October 30, 2001, Netscape 6.2 was made available for public downloading.
Today, AOL-Netscape has place its new Netscape 7.0 on it public FTP servers for your scrutiny, and hopefully your Web browsing pleasure.
What's New in Netscape 7.0.
According to the Netscape 7.0 Release Notes here is what's new in NS 7.0:
* Netscape Navigator
* Netscape Mail
* Address Book
* AOL Instant Messenger
* Netscape Composer
* Netscape Help and Support Center (Open the Help menu and choose Help and Support Center)
The Netscape 7 browser suite is based upon the cross-platform (XP), open source, Mozilla browser-suite. The current, latest Milestone Mozilla browser-suite release is Mozilla 1.1. It was released 26 August 2002.
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 7 is meant to try to make Netscape 7 more competitive with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which seems to start more quickly than does Netscape 7.
The upside to Quick Launch is that Netscape 7 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 7.0
Earlier today, there were some 668 open "crash" bugs and nearly 160 open "dataloss" bugs in the Mozilla code-base. For more information about Mozilla bugs please see our article A Quick Look at Some Mozilla 1.0 Browser-Suite Annoyances, Bugs, And Issues.
Please keep in mind that because the Netscape browser-suite is based on Mozilla code, it inherits the bugs that are in that Mozilla code. Also, all the bugs do not apply to all platforms. Some bugs only occur on Linux installations, some only on Windows installations, some only on Mac installations, and so forth. Moreover, people that use only the browser component will not experience bugs that are specific to the e-mail module or other Mozilla browser-suite modules -- and so forth.
Some of the bugs included in the bug-counts are minor and trivial sorts of things such as misspelled words in menus. Others as noted above involve system crashes, application lock-ups, and data losses.
Bug counts are important in program development and project management. However, users will judge Netscape 7.0 more by their own, hands-on, experiences with the bugs while using the software rather than by bug-count statistics.
If whatever bugs users actually experience do not annoy them, they will be happy with the product. On the other hand, if users are annoyed by the bugs, then they will not be happy. A good way to keep users from being annoyed by bugs is to get rid of the bugs before you provide the user with the software. That means that cutting down bug counts is very important.
Unless AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division wants Netscape 7 to be another loser, it is going to have to reduce substantially the number of bugs in Netscape 7. However, there are more bugs in the Netscape underlying Mozilla code-base now then there were when the Netscape 6.2.x series was carved out of the Mozilla code-base. That suggests that Netscape 7.0 could be even buggier than Netscape 6.2.
For more information about the Mozilla browser-suite and downloading it, please see our recent article Mozilla Milestone 1.1 Browser-Suite Released. For updated Mozilla bug counts, please see the right sidebar on the MozillaQuest Magazine front page (mozillaquest.com).