AOL previews Netscape 6

America Online Inc. today made available a preview of the long-awaited new browser from its Netscape Communications Corp. subsidiary and unveiled a set of Internet appliances developed in partnership with Gateway Inc. to offer "Instant AOL" on portable platforms.

Netscape 6 will be powered by the Gecko browser engine, developed with input from Mozilla.org, the open-source organization founded by Netscape two years ago.

The new version of Netscape, available as a free download, will offer faster performance on desktop PCs and can be adapted to a variety of other stationary and portable Internet devices and computing platforms, such as Linux, Apple Computer Inc.'s operation system and Windows, said Barry Schuler, president of interactive services at AOL, at a press conference.

"We really worked very hard to be cross-platform and cross-device," he said.

It will be the first commercial browser to fully implement open Web standards, including XML, HTML 4.0, cascading style sheets CSS1, the World Wide Web Consortium's Document Object Model Levels 0 and 1, JavaScript 1.5, and the Resource Description Framework, company officials said. Web developers will be able to create "richer Web designs and applications with the open system," said Chris Saito, senior director of product marketing at Netscape.

Seven vendors — IBM, Intel Corp., Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., NetObjects Inc., Liberate Technologies and Nokia Corp. — have announced support for Gecko.

Netscape 6 will also include features that allow users to customize the look and feel of their browsers and add tabs for constant, easy access to Internet content providers, officials said.

The announcement drew mixed reactions from analysts.

"It's possible that Netscape could seize this opportunity to regain their market share," said Jeffrey Zeldman, a New York-based Web designer and group leader of the Web Standards Project. "But my fear is that (Netscape 6) is not ready and that they are allowing events to dictate its release."

The building pressure to come out with something after long delays and "the public spanking of Microsoft" may have been driving the release, Zeldman said.

AOL announced the preview version of Netscape 6 at the Internet World conference today in Los Angeles.

At the same time, it unveiled three AOL Gateway Internet appliances designed for more portable access to the Internet and its new "Instant AOL."

The appliances, slated for release within a year, will allow users to access AOL content and the Internet throughout a house via wireless devices feeding off a central hub, much like a cordless phone.

The first of the devices, a light countertop or under-the-cabinet flat-screen system, will be available by the holiday shopping season, according to AOL.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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