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A lot has happened between the time that I wrote Don’t Mention the (Browser) War and the actual publication of the article. In the article I was reviewing the browser history and feeling nostalgic about the browser war. Well, there have been some important new developments promising exciting times. First of all there is Netscape 8. Netscape was as good as dead, but apparently not buried by AOL. Looking at the specifications, they are back in business.

AOL puts the emphasis on security features. They collaborated with several security companies in order to compile a black list of malicious sites. The browser will warn you when ActiveX, phishing, spy ware, etc. from these sites are a security threat. Users can enable/disable these risky things by themselves too. Another feature is the RSS reading facilities, which is very good news for people (like me) following the SDN forums.

But the new feature which interests me the most is the ability to switch between the Gecko and the MIE rendering engines. In other words, developers only need one browser from now on. Netscape supports both. This is rather interesting since Firefox 1.0 is the basis for the new Netscape version. Will this also say something about the future Firefox/Mozilla version? Firefox needs to do its very best to follow the competition though. Their upgrade release (1.1) has been postponed for three months. They won’t admit it, but thefact that 2 of their main developers were hired by Google is probably one of the major reasons for this.

On Feb the 17th, they should have launched the first official beta version (together with a new site). “Should”, I say, because it didn’t happen. They decided to postpone the launch for a couple of weeks due to too many bugs. I could download the pre-beta but that wouldn’t be very representative. So, the only option is to wait. Meanwhile the others haven’t been sitting still :
– Microsoft has decided to take the bull by the horns and announced MIE 7 for this summer, despite Longhorn (I’ve never understood why MS chose cattle as a code name for a project name) release predictions for next year. Guess what the focus for MIE 7 will be on? Yes, security. Rumours say that there will also be tabbed browsing and a new outlook express. Bad news is that it’ll be only available for Windows XP SP2, Win Server 2003 SP 1 and Win XP Pro x64.
– Mozilla released both Mozilla 1.8 beta 1 and Firefox 1.0.1. The latter was rather surprising, but it seemed that they couldn’t afford to leave some serious bugs in until 1.1 comes out. The launch of the update went rather wrong. Mozilla was serving the Windows update to Mac and Linux users.
– Mother nature released a new flu version and I was one of the victims. My medical doctor said that the flu was normally out of the country but with this latest winter attack of the last 2 weeks it came back (there is free circulation of goods within the EC anyway ;-)). Having close encounters with my bed- and restroom prevented me from writing this web log last Friday, when NS 8 beta finally came out.

So what does this Netscape 8 look like ? Well it looks exactlythe same as the new site (www.netscape.com). Despite being based on Firefox, it doesn’t look like it at all. The tab browsing and commercial stuff resembles Opera more, but less cluttered. You don’t need to switch off the bars and stuff in order to see something from a site. I find the menu and location too small. It has also left out the nifty find function of Firefox, which is a shame. But that isn’t that important. Does the switching between the engines really work? In order to test it, I’m taking the BTF editor (see also the earlier mentioned article) as an example.

When I start BTF in ‘normal’ mode, it looks like this:

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Yes, just like in the old days when you didn’t use MIE as a browser.

But when I specify via the site controls that this site needs to use the IE engine.

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It shows perfectly.

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Isn’t that great? No need to install multiple browsers (sic). The system doesn’t work perfectly though. One can set it so that NS renders automatically as IE when it finds that it doesn’t show properly. The BTF editor (and I suppose all browser detection systems) won’t recognize it as MIE. So one ends up setting it manually per site. Fine for developers but not for making sure that all end users do this. I found a funny thing on this matter – Netscape.com is by default as a site that needs to be rendered by the IE engine.

To finish, some additional news. Doug Turner, the lead developer of Minimo said he’s working on a Windows CE version of his browser. So we can finally browse the web on a PocketPC in a proper way.

 

Update: The final version of Netscape 8 is out now.

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