Outsourced Netscape Merges Firefox, IE

AOL has unveiled a prototype of the Netscape browser that is based on Firefox but can also use IE's rendering engine.

AOL has unveiled a prototype of its revived Netscape Browser, which serves as a test bed for several new features. The new Netscape is based on Firefox, but with a twist—it includes support for switching to Microsofts IE engine.

BetaNews has also learned that Netscapes development was not done in-house by AOL, but rather outsourced to Canadian software firm Mercurial Communications.

The Netscape prototype is built upon Mozilla Firefox 0.9.3, which means it utilizes the same user interface toolkit and Gecko browser engine. The browsers theme has been redone to match Netscapes traditional green style and, as expected, customized Netscape-specific extensions have been added to the toolbar offering weather and news headlines.

Surprisingly, Netscape now includes the ability to swap rendering engines, using Internet Explorer in lieu of Mozillas Gecko. AOL tested similar browser agnostic functionality dubbed Komodo in 2001, but eventually dropped plans to integrate the technology into its AOL client, which solely uses IE.

Like Maxthon and Avant Browser, Netscape loads Microsofts IE ActiveX control within the browser interface to perform IE rendering.

A source close to the company said AOL opted to include IE engine support in order to offer users more choice, as some sites are optimized for certain browsers. But to avoid security vulnerabilities found in IE, Netscape "gives the user the choice through Site Controls of what sites they trust and dont trust by allowing them to turn off Web functionalities that expose security holes on a per site basis," the source told BetaNews.

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