Netscape 8 is a new Amercia Online product that qualitatively differs from earlier browser versions, although it still has many in common with previous releases and also is based on Mozilla Foundation’s code, this time – code of the best all-around alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer – Firefox. However, the most interesting fact is that AOL decided to combine two bloody enemies – IE and Firefox in single browser called Netscape 8. Yes, indeed, new AOL creation uses two independent engines, highly co-integrated using a single graphical interface, so the user might not notice the difference. Such AOL move is really wise. Internet Explorer de facto is the Internet standard, most web sites are IE-oriented. Firefox is highly secure, but still has significant problems with some complex resources.
Thus Netscape 8 has all the Firefox features, including tabbed browsing, customizable pop-up blocking, native support for themes and extensions. The browser also has absolutely new, yet unseen functions, such as new toolbar system with integrated weather service, webmail access, sidebar widgets and add-ons (for instance, embedded AIM messenger), improved information menus and much more.
Image 1. Datacards and Passcards are completely new Netscape 8 features
However, Netscape 8 also has significant negative sides. Although many popular Firefox extensions are incompatible, no native extensions has been released yet. Only two official themes are available. Moreover, Netscape 8 doesn’t support different operating systems than Windows and has no translated versions.
Other very interesting side of new browser is its security. Netscape 8 divides sites into three categories: “I trust this site”, “I’m not sure” and “I don’t trust this site”. Resources, added into the first category are accessed using Internet Explorer engine. Other sites can be opened by Firefox engine. The user can manually reconfigure default and advanced settings. Netscape 8 relies on TRUSTe (www.truste.com) site rating. Such method eliminates the possibility that insecure site will be opened using Internet Explorer engine with potentially unsafe components like ActiveX or Visual Basic Script support enabled
Image 2. Sites can be divided into three categories
However, the safety of Netscape 8 causes more doubts than Firefox, or, let’s say, Opera security. On the next day after the first official Netscape 8 release AOL has published a patch to fix multiple vulnerabilities and stability issues discovered in browser. Other patches followed shortly. These facts show that updating the browser made of two different products is a much slower process and more difficult task than fixing a single program. In general, the impression is made that Netscape 8 was released without proper testing.
The most negative fact about Netscape 8 is its relation with commercial software publishers. During the installation process the user is asked to install third-party “Netscape partner software” – Desktop Weather by the Weather Channel and Real Arcade. These programs do not possess any serious threat to the system security or user privacy. However, some users wouldn’t never download and install them. Fortunately, these applications are not required by the browser to function properly. You can select not to install them.
Nevertheless, the new browser is really good. It offers the best compromise between really tough security and perfect compatibility with modern web sites.