Netscape 8.0 May Change Browser Wars

America Online may have hit on the perfect way to get the name Netscape back into the midst of the browser wars with Netscape 8.0, unveiled today. At least one analyst has said that Web users should seriously consider switching to the browser, which has been in public beta testing since March.

“In some ways this is the most innovative thing to come out of Netscape in a long time, since the very early days,” Joe Wilcox, senior analyst, Jupiter Media, told the E-Commerce Times.

Firefox and IE

Netscape’s new security features and its dual rendering engines are its big innovations. One of the engines emulates the open-source Mozilla Firefox browser and the other emulates Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Users can seamlessly toggle between the two.

“What that means for the user is they can have the best of both worlds,” Wilcox said.Because IE has been hit with many security breaches, some people feel more comfortable with Firefox, which is more secure. But some sites run better in IE. Netscape solves that dilemma.

The browser also beefs up security, using the dual rendering as the basis for its protection. AOL will maintain a list of trusted sites and sites known to be scams of some kind, such as phishing sites or spyware creators.

Netscape will automatically update that list. If a user attempts to go to one of the sites on the “black list,” the browser will issue a warning, switch to the more secure Firefox and disable some function making it more difficult to download from the site or fill in personal information. If the site is on the “white list” or is a designated trusted site, the browser will render it in IE for higher compatibility.

Slow But Secure

The tradeoff is time. Checking the security of the sites slows down the load time for Web pages.

Netscape also includes tabbed browsing and does away with Netscape’s trademark green, which beta users overwhelmingly gave the thumbs down to. The browser release plays into AOL’s new strategy to move away from a subscription base and toward an ad-driven business model.

“Why would anybody invest in a browser? You don’t make any money from a browser. The answer is search,” Wilcox said.

Getting users to the Netscape portal drives search-based advertising revenue.

“There are new toolbars that connect to different information that you want. I promise you the ones that are preconfigured, there’s some marketing message behind it,” he said. “If you’re driving traffic to Netscape, that’s eyeballs looking at ads. In traffic and views, there’s money to be made.”

The toolbars, dubbed “multibar,” condense multiple toolbars into customizable buttons that can be accessed with one click.

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