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1 December, 2004

New Netscape

It seems AOL's new version of the Netscape browser is out as a prototype.  It's a hybrid, based primarily on the Gecko browser engine from Mozilla Firefox 0.9.3 (not the securest version, but never mind...), yet also integrating Internet Explorer's Trident engine, for a reason I don't quite grasp.  I think the latter is a commercial/legal obligation on AOL, rather than a sound technical or user-led purpose.

Initial reports have been unfailingly negative, or at best, unimpressed.  See Neil's World for a roundup of significant criticisms; also see Mozilla's own review.
So far as I can see, this is one to avoid.

My main concern is the potential effect on real browsers such as Firefox (that's the Firefox 1.0 completed release, not the 0.9.3 beta used by the new Netscape). If people can be persuaded to dump IE, great. If they switch to a brand they already recognise, Netscape, it seems they mightn't be getting as much of an improvement as they might elsewhere. If they then notice that it's based on (an earlier version of) Firefox, a negative browsing experience might damage the reputation of 'real' Firefox, or indeed other non-IE browsers.

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