With the release of Netscape 7.0, Netscape Communications Corp. and its parent AOL have finally completed the transformation of the browser from a powerful and highly customizable Web and e-mail client to an intrusive home-user-focused client more on par with Microsoft Corp,s MSN Explorer and the AOL client itself.
The fact that Netscape 7.0 arrives hot on the heels of the similar but superior Mozilla 1.1 only serves to illuminate the small but significant differences between the two: Mozilla is highly customizable and offers a number of user options, while Netscape forces users to accept many features and functions they probably dont want while removing some they probably do.
eWEEK Labs recommends that any business looking for browser options to Microsofts Internet Explorer examine Mozilla or Opera Softwares Opera rather than the corporate-unfriendly Netscape.
And, despite the fact that many of the main developers at Mozilla.org constantly maintain that Mozilla is just for developers and advanced users and not regular Joes, we think that most users will also prefer Mozilla for standard use. The only likely exceptions are those who desire the heavy Internet Messenger integration that Netscape provides.
Some may find it surprising that we are making such a strong recommendation given the fact that both Netscape and Mozilla share the same code base. After all, arent they more alike than different?
They certainly are. Both provide the same excellent tabbed browsing interface, and both now include a button to launch new tabbed windows, better standards support and some general usability improvements in areas such as search and file downloads. And as our reviews of both Mozilla 1.0 and the Netscape 7.0 Beta show, theres a lot to like in both, including features that provide browsing and mail experiences as good as or better than competing browsers.
But when it comes to the areas of difference between Mozilla and Netscape, almost all stand as negative marks against Version 7.0.
To eWEEK Labs, the biggest difference is in the area of pop-up ad blocking.
In Mozilla, users can stop pop-up adds by deselecting "Open unrequested windows" in the Scripts and Plugins preference area. In Netscape 7.0, not only is this feature not there, but it has also been replaced by another feature that sits in the same place in the preference menu. The new feature lets users choose to deselect "Open a link in a new Window." This, of course, does not stop pop-up ads but instead opens content such as images and reference materials in the current browser window, rather than opening a new window.
Call us paranoid, but the only reason eWEEK Labs can think of to do this is to confuse users into thinking that it would also block pop-up ads.
Other differences will be more obvious to most users. Upon installation, Netscape 7.0 adds several icons to the desktop and start menu on Windows platforms. (Linux and Mac users fare better in this area.) Also, Instant Messenger is set to run at start-up by default. We would prefer more of an initial say as to what goes on at start-up.
Even more frustrating is the lack of a true custom install. As we noted in our review of the 7.0 Beta, users that want the very good Netscape 7.0 mail client must also install Instant Messenger whether they want it or not. (This is not a requirement in Mozilla.)
For those who use Instant Messenger, however, Netscape 7.0 integrates it well—probably the only benefit in Netscape 7.0 that is not found in Mozilla 1.1. Within the Netscape 7.0 mail client, for example, users can easily see if others are active on IM and choose to chat rather than to mail.
Will you use Netscape 7.0? Tell me why at email@example.com.