Netscape 6.0 begins shipping

Netscape 6.0 is finally here.

After three years of upgrades, the faded browser champ Netscape Communications Corp. is releasing on Tuesday the final version of the Netscape 6.0 Web browser. Netscape 6.0 features a slick, new, customizable user interface, its own version of AOL Inc.’s instant messaging service, and a program called Gecko that speedily renders Web page text and graphics.

Netscape has dropped the brand name “Communicator” and has skipped a 5.0 release, arguing that the update’s improvements warrant the sequential jump. Users can download the free browser from Netscape or from our Downloads library.

It’s Netscape’s first major browser overhaul since the company and technology became part of America Online in early 1999. Netscape 6.0 serves as the company’s renewed attempt to reclaim some of its lost market share. Today, 86 per cent of Web surfers use a version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, according to WebSideStory’s StatMarket. Only 12.5 per cent use Netscape’s browser, in contrast to its former domination of the Web browser market.

Netscape 6.0 brings the browser closer to technological parity with Internet Explorer 5.5. But Netscape goes a step further, tying its browser more closely to its popular Web site, For example, shortcuts to business, entertainment, and Web-based personal information destinations are embedded at the bottom of the browser window. Microsoft has come up with a similar ploy in MSN Explorer, a version of IE tied directly to sites and services.

The final release also marks the culmination of efforts by thousands of Web developers who were given the browser source code to help build it under the Mozilla open-source program. Netscape invited those developers to improve the code, promising in turn to commercialize the best of the improvements.

New in Netscape 6.0

Among the highlights of the improvements are: