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May 20, 2001


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Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars?

Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6?

- page 2 -

Article Index

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It's Either Netscape 6 or Mozilla

Netscape 6 Too Buggy

Mozilla Is Not Netscape's Only Linux Desktop Competitor

Bugs Are Not Everything

In Defense of Netscape 6


Resources & Links

Mozilla Is Not Netscape's Only Linux Desktop Competitor

In our discussions with the Linux distribution people about the Netscape 6 problems, we noticed they had favorable comments about Mozilla and other, non-Netscape, browser products.

Note: Lynx is a text-based rather than graphical Web browser that pre-dates Mosaic, the first graphical Web browser and predecessor of the first Netscape browser. It's still popular among DOS, Linux, and UNIX people that do not use a graphical user interface (GUI).)

For example, Tania Cantrell adds that Caldera plans to also include Konqueror and Lynx in OpenLinux Server and OpenLinux Workstation 3.1. This is because not everyone uses a GUI. Konqueror is our browser of choice, because Caldera supports KDE as the standard.

In a similar manner, Mandrake's Denis Havlik states: We'll definitively include Mozilla and Konqueror because these are main free browsers. KDE requires Konqueror, GNOME depends on Mozilla.

Incidentally, Linux-Mandrake (LM) 8.0 PowerPack includes Netscape 4.77, Galeon 0.10.2, Mozilla 0.8, Konqueror 2.1.1, and Opera 5.0. LM 8.0 also includes the Lynx and Links text browsers. But it does not include Netscape 6.x.

Note: even if Netscape 6 is not included with the Linux distributions, Linux users still can download Netscape 6 and install it themselves. However, if the Mozilla and KDE Konqueror browsers come pre-installed with the Linux distributions it's not likely that Linux users will bother to download and install Netscape.

SuSE's Dirk Hohndel mentioned that other browsers SuSE plans to include in SuSE Linux distributions are Konqueror, lynx, and W3M plus Sun's cross-platform, (XP) StarOffice, which has a browser module.

It seems that among these top four Linux distribution packagers, just about every Linux compatible browser, except Netscape 6, is either included in at least one current or planned Linux distribution.

Bugs Are Not Everything

Poor product quality and stability are not the only Netscape 6 issues that are bugging the Red Hat people. They are not comfortable with the Netscape 6 licensing legalese. On the other hand, they seem to be very comfortable with Mozilla's open source environment.

Red Hat's Preston Brown says that one can pretty much do what they want to do with modifying and distributing their own branded adaptation of the Mozilla browser suite. However he says that is not the case with the Netscape 6 package. For more about customizing Mozilla, please see our Building Your Own Mozilla-Based Web Browser & Creating Your Own Netscape 6 Themes & Skins article series.

Additionally, Red Hat's position is that Netscape 6 and Mozilla are the same basic code so there is no need to include both products in Red Hat Linux. Therefore there is no need to even bother negotiating a distribution agreement for Netscape 6. Here is the discussion about that, open source, and licensing:

MozillaQuest: Are Linux and UNIX distributors being asked to pay any sort of fee or license charge, jump through hoops, or anything to include NS 6.x in their distributions? If so, how does that differ from NS 4.x?

Preston Brown: We haven't contacted Netscape regarding a new relationship for Netscape 6.x. There is no need. Mozilla is the same code base, and the strength of the Netscape brand has deteriorated (unfortunately) over the past few years.

MozillaQuest: You and other Red Hat people state the decision to drop Netscape in part is based upon Mozilla's being an open source product. Why do you all see that as an advantage of Mozilla over Netscape?

Excerpt of License to which Preston Brown Refers

3. RESTRICTIONS. Except as otherwise expressly permitted in this Agreement, or in another Netscape agreement to which Licensee is a party . . . or a distribution agreement, . . . Licensee may not:

(i) modify or create any derivative works of the Product or documentation, including customization, translation or localization; (ii) decompile, disassemble, reverse engineer, or otherwise attempt to derive the source code for the Product (except to the extent applicable laws specifically prohibit such restriction or as provided by the Netscape Public License or Mozilla Public License for portions of the product governed by those licenses);

(iii) redistribute, encumber, sell, rent, lease, sublicense, or otherwise transfer rights to the Product; (iv) remove or alter any trademark, logo, copyright or other proprietary notices, legends, symbols or labels in the Product; or (v) publish any results of benchmark tests run on the Product to a third party without Netscape's prior written consent.

Preston Brown: We can modify it to our heart's content. The Netscape-branded version of Mozilla (Netscape 6.x) cannot be modified and still called Netscape. See license . . .

MozillaQuest: Why do you see open source software as an advantage over other software?

Preston Brown: There are many reasons; chiefly that open source development and software give customers higher value and greater control at significantly lower costs.

MozillaQuest: Netscape 6.x is based on the Mozilla (open source) code. However, you all seem to see Netscape 6.x as not, or perhaps not exactly, open source. Could you clarify that please?

Preston Brown: It is open source. It is the brand that is the issue.

Mandrake's Denis Havlik indicated that the Mandrake people have not looked at these open source and licensing issues yet. Nor have the Caldera or SuSE folks mentioned the open source and licensing issues. However, if the Caldera, Mandrake, and SuSE decision makers reach the same conclusions to which the Red Hat people have come regarding open source and licensing issues, Netscape 6 might never make it into the major Linux distributions.

In Defense of Netscape 6

Mandrake's Denis Havlik raised some interesting issues in defense of Netscape 6. Simply put, Netscape 6 comes with more stuff than does Mozilla.

The Mozilla browser suite is designed to be a developer/OEM product -- not a consumer or end-user product. So things such as including plugins is left up to whoever is shipping/distributing a Mozilla-based browser suite, as an end-user or consumer product, to bundle-in plugins and other such stuff. Or, end-users can download and install the plugins and other goodies themselves. Therein is the rub.

Denis notes, some users may still prefer Netscape over other browsers. It comes bundled with some plugins, which cannot be bundled with free browsers, for instance Java. Many people are too "lazy" to go looking around for plugins, and they expect access to Internet, inclusive with all bells and whistles (Java, Real Player, Flash...), as soon as they install the browser. If that will be enough to "save" Netscape it is another question.

IMHO, Netscape has a last, now or never, chance to do something this summer: either they put out something really good, or they will be forgotten as users get used to other browsers.

If Linux distributors decide to drop the Netscape browser-suite and replace it with Mozilla, they might find themselves faced with needing to flesh-out their Mozilla distributions with plugins, a spell checker, and so forth. But, as Red Hat's Preston Brown pointed out, We can modify it [Mozilla] to our heart's content.

Mandrake's Denis Havlik puts it this way: Imagine Mozilla 1.0 is out, and Netscape 6.5 isn't better than Mozilla in any way except for having some plugins bundled with it. Now imagine also that we can put RPMs with all these plugins on . . . CDs . . ., and make sure that Mozilla works fine with them. Pouf! Bye-bye Netscape.

Related Articles

For Part I of this series, please see

Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars?-- Part I: Linux Could Be Netscape's Last Browser Battlefield

For the original London interview and more about Red Hat Linux 7.1, please see our article,

A Red Hat Linux 7.1 Preview: What's Under the Newest Fedora.

For more about Red Hat's decision to drop Netscape from its Linux distributions, please see our article

Red Hat Linux to Drop Netscape Browser When Mozilla 1.0 Ships

Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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