With the release of Netscape 7.0, Netscape Communications Corp. and its parent, America Online Inc., 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 Mozilla.orgs similar but superior Mozilla 1.1 only serves to illuminate the small but significant differences between the two browsers: 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 Software ASAs Opera rather than the corporate-unfriendly Netscape 7.0.
Some may find it surprising that we are making such a strong recommendation given the fact that 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 im- provements in areas such as search and file downloads. And as our reviews of 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. (Both of these reviews are available at www.eweek.com/ links.)
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 pop-up-ad blocking. In Mozilla, users can stop pop-up ads 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 In Netscape 7.0, not only is this feature not there, but it also has been replaced by another feature that sits in the same place in the preference menu.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 opens content such as images and reference materials in the same window instead of opening a separate window for each.
Call us paranoid, but the only reason eWeek Labs can think of to do this is to confuse users into thinking that it will 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 OS users fare better in this area.) Also, Instant Messenger is set to run at startup by default. We would prefer more of an initial say as to what goes on at startup.
Even more frustrating is the lack of a true custom installation. As eWeek Labs noted in our review of the 7.0 beta, users who want the very good Netscape 7.0 mail client must 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.
Technical Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.