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Netscape launches new Web browser

Netscape has launched a new version of its Netscape browser with a heavy focus on Web security and media features for high-speed Web surfing.
/ Source: Reuters

Netscape Thursday launched version 8.0 of its Web browser, promising better security and the ability to switch between rival browsers Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Netscape was once the dominant browser but is a shadow of its former self, in terms of market share. It is owned by America Online, a division of Time Warner Inc.

Netscape 8.0 aims to restore the browser’s reputation, in part by combining rival technologies. It uses the new Firefox, a collaboratively developed browser program, to handle less secure sites, and Internet Explorer, by Microsoft Corp. , to open trusted ones.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

“The browser is like a hybrid car that combines the usability of Internet Explorer with the security of Firefox,” said Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for America Online/Netscape.

The new Netscape checks sites for security, integrates Web search and offers advanced features like RSS feeds, which typically link to major news providers.

Netscape 8.0 automatically switches security settings, and the browser it uses, based on whether a site is a known and trusted site or an unknown site, the company said.

If the site appears on about 150,000 Web sites certified as legitimate by TRUSTe and VeriSign Inc., called the “white list,” it automatically shows up on Internet Explorer so that all the functionality of the site will work.

If the site appears on a regularly updated “black list” of dangerous and scam sites, the browser will provide a warning screen and disable potentially dangerous functionality on those sites. Users may proceed if they choose to, Weinstein said.

The millions of sites neither on the “white” or “black” list, will appear in Firefox for increased security, Weinstein said.

Since the late 1990s, Microsoft has included Explorer with the Windows operating system, a move that proved catastrophic for Netscape and sparked the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust suit against Microsoft. The two sides later settled.

America Online bought Netscape in 1999 and later merged with Time Warner in 2001. Since the mid-1990s, America Online has provided AOL subscribers a modified version of Explorer under license with Microsoft.

Firefox, a free Web browser developed by a network of software programmers, has given Internet Explorer competition for the first time since Microsoft overtook the Netscape Navigator in the late 1990s to become the dominant way computer users view the World Wide Web.

Internet Explorer continues to dominate the Web browser space, with more than 90 percent market share according to some analysts. But by the end of 2004, Firefox’s share climbed to 4.06 percent, a 34 percent gain from early November to early December alone, according to market watchers.