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By Nate Mook  |  Posted 2002-11-27 Print this article Print

: AOL Communicator Threatens Netscape"> Improving on the Netscape address book, Communicator allows users to associate IM buddies with stored contacts and give them "Friendly Names." This integration allows the instant messenger client to notify a user when mail is received from a buddy or to send mail to an offline contact. Despite their overlapping feature sets, AOL developed Communicator independently of Netscape. But resurrecting the Communicator namesake—Netscapes former moniker—for the new product suite may not be coincidental. Initial plans plotted AOL Communicator as a potential substitute for Netscape; however, the release of Netscape 7 in August ushered in a much improved browser suite built on the final version of Mozilla.
Sources at AOL tell BetaNews that a rift has formed between those supporting the old Netscape brand and backers of Communicator as a Netscape replacement.
With the recent beta release, christened Milestone 10, AOL is evaluating consumer response to the software. "As with all beta-tested products, we collect feedback from users," Corre said. "Since it is still in its early stages, we cannot comment on any distribution or marketing strategies." Shifting focus away from the Web browser has been a long-expected transition for AOLs Netscape group. Communicator enables AOL to focus on areas in which the company can better compete. Microsofts ubiquitous Internet Explorer Web browser has left little room for alternatives and even AOLs 8.0 client continues to embed the Internet Explorer engine. Instead, AOL can take advantage of the lead it enjoys with instant messaging and the millions of users with AOL e-mail addresses. With the software still in beta testing, AOL has left its options open for how to position Communicator. Corre confirmed the XUL interface enables AOL to potentially build Communicator for Windows, Linux and Mac platforms. Communicator could also be pitted as a competitor to Microsofts Outlook Express. However, if Netscape avoids its long-standing fate, the primary audience for Communicator may simply end up being AOL users looking for an alternative method to access e-mail. "A lot of these features would be useful to AOL customers," Corre said. "But its too early to comment on a final outcome."


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