Next-Generation Browser Technology Wins Supporters

After more than two years, Netscape Communications Corp.'s experiment with open-source development is finally inching toward fruition.

Last week, the America Online Inc. subsidiary said it would launch a beta version of its Netscape 6 browser within 25 days.

Seven vendors, - IBM, Intel Corp., Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., NetObjects Inc., Liberate Technologies and Nokia Corp. - announced support for Gecko, the open-source browser engine at the heart of Netscape 6.

Gecko was developed with input from Mozilla.org, the open-source organization founded by Netscape two years ago.

Netscape 6 will be the first Netscape browser to be based on code from Mozilla.org and the first to include Gecko. It will be the successor to the current Navigator 4.7.

Originally, Netscape had planned an interim version of its browser, to be called Navigator 5. "But we got clear feedback from developers that they didn't want an incremental upgrade; they wanted a clean rewrite," said Eric Krock, senior product manager at Netscape.

"If Gecko delivers what it promises - and if other browser makers follow Netscape's lead - it will enable us to write to standards instead of authoring to the deficiencies and quirks of various browsers," said Jeffrey Zeldman, a New York-based Web designer and group leader of the Web Standards Project, an advocacy group.

AOL uses Microsoft Corp.'s competing Internet Explorer browser for its online service. But AOL intends to use Gecko as a component in future versions of its Instant Messenger and ICQ products, and in its AOLTV set-top box, Netscape officials said.

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