Microsoft: New Netscape breaks IE

Microsoft Corp. is advising users of Netscape 8 to either uninstall the software or edit their computer’s registry files because of a bug in America Online Inc.’s new browser. According to a Microsoft engineer, Netscape 8 disables the XML rendering capabilities in Internet Explorer, meaning that some Web pages won’t be visible in Internet Explorer after Netscape 8 is installed.

In a posting yesterday to the Internet Explorer Weblog, Microsoft’s Dave Massy, senior program manager for Internet Explorer, said his company had confirmed the problem, which had previously been reported on Internet newsgroups and forums.

“If you navigate in IE to an XML file such as an RSS feed…, rather than seeing the data, you are presented with a blank page,” he wrote. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format widely used to keep track of updates to Web sites.

Massy offered two work-arounds to the problem: uninstalling Netscape 8, or deleting the XML node from a registry file titled HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftInternet ExplorerPluginsExtension

According to AOL, however, these measures are unnecessary. “This issue affects a very small number of users who visit sites that require that advanced technology,” said Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesman.

The company some time next week plans to release a fix to the problem, which will be delivered to users via Netscape’s autoupdate feature. “We would not encourage people to uninstall or effect their browser settings,” Weinstein said. “It’s a minor issue.”

The bug is the second piece of bad news concerning Netscape 8 for AOL, which unveiled the eagerly anticipated browser last Thursday. Within hours of the initial release, AOL found itself scrambling to patch more than 40 security holes in the software.

The free browser combines many of the features of both IE and the open-source Firefox browser, and has been promoted as a secure and easy-to-use product. AOL laid off the bulk of its Netscape software development team in 2003, and the work on Netscape 8 was largely completed by Victoria, British Columbia-based Mercurial Communications Inc.

Netscape 8 is the first major upgrade to the once-dominant browser since 2002.

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