Review - Netscape 6 Release 2 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5

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13th Sep 2000
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Netscape 6 Release 2

Netscape have released a beta version of Netscape 6 Release 2 in an attempt to take back some of the market share that Microsoft has given its web browser by integrating it into the Windows operating system and giving it away for free.

Whether any rulings that the US court set for Microsoft, will provide any advantages for Netscape, appears very unlikely.

With the latest version of Netscape, it looks as though they have started from scratch rather than simply adding a few enhancements onto an already stable platform. A whole host of new services have been added even though the browser has been reduced in file size. They believe that this will allow the browser to run on more mobile platforms, and the code being open source, will allow developers to tailor the browser to suit organisational requirements.

There are changes in the appearance of the browser, currently there is a choice between two different ways that the browser will appear, however, this is only in the beta version. When Netscape release their final version with the use of open source code, there will be more choices, also developers can create their own 'look' again to fall in with corporate images.

The changes to this browser allows integration with email and instant messaging very well, a sidebar has been introduced, that allows relevant information to be simply a click away.

There are however, still some problems that need to be resolved before the official version is released, such as that it is slow, and because of the appearance, it is hard to tell whether anything is actually happening. There appear to be many bugs remaining in the program resulting in this application still failing on a regular basis.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5

It appears that the latest enhancements made to this browser are more so for the benefit of Microsoft rather than bringing benefits to those who use it. The most significant change has been that they have added a print preview feature to show how many pages there are to print out a site.

An improvement has been made in performance whereby viewing sites with multiple frames, previous versions opened up separate copies, this new version shows all the frames in one single page. This means that there is a slight increase in performance.

For web designers, the new version offers some impressive options, however, it appears that Microsoft are persuading designers to work in Microsoft's internet framework rather than using open standards. Be careful though because IE 5.5 do not use Extensible Markup Language (XML) even though this was announced to be Microsoft.net initiative.

Outlook Express 5.5 can be downloaded as part of the IE 5.5 upgrade, but there do not appear to be any noticeable enhancements over the previous version.

Comparisons

It appears as though Microsoft have defeated Netscape in the volumes of users that either use one or the other, but this does not mean that IE 5.5 is the best browser.

When Microsoft have introduced Outlook Express 5.5 and should users decide to upgrade, for those who prefer to use Microsoft Express and their mail client and Netscape as their default browser, with earlier versions, this was possible, however, as Microsoft once again prevent products from moving between each other, the link now opens in Internet Explorer.

There are some features of Netscape that still are better than Microsoft IE, the latter is still best suited for casual users, however, for the expert user they would still benefit by keeping both browsers on their system.

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