Netscape 6: At Long-Awaited Last - HTML with Style
By now some of my more devoted readers will probably be wondering why I'm not jumping up and down with joy, proclaiming the end of the Microsoft hegemony on the Web and generally being quite evangelical. Is Netscape 6 not all it's cracked up to be?
The answer is not simple. As all Web site developers know, a browser is meaningful as a platform for development only if people use it. So the real question here is not if Netscape 6 is a good browser or not, but whether that's going to be enough to stop the steady decline in the number of users of Netscape's previous browser.
Netscape Communicator 4 was a truly terrible browser. The early versions (4.0x) were rushed to release in order to beat Internet Explorer 4 to market and where ridden with bugs. The browser was slow, crashed often, and felt unwieldly to use. On the development front, it was short on features, and had possibly the worst standards support ever seen in a browser with such a large installed base. Netscape's first implementation of CSS was lamentable, essentially a completely different language with only loose relations to the official W3C specification. Their HTML engine was still stream-based, with no document tree and relied on tag-based parsing. The document object model left a lot to be desired, and most of the document remained inaccessible to developers of client-side applications.
Slowly but steadily, most of the bugs were removed from the browser, but the layout engine remained lamentable. People stopped using the browser, and developers stopped creating Web sites that exploited its capabilities. Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5, and more recently 5.5, and more and more people stopped using Communicator.
A lot of people, including myself, have criticized Microsoft both for its bloodthirsty marketing tactics - bundling Internet Explorer with Windows machines, blackmailing companies such as Apple and Gateway into offering Internet Explorer exclusively, offering incentives to Web developers to use IE-only features and so on - and for its breaking of many Web standards. Despite all of these complaints, however, one had to admit that Internet Explorer was the better browser, if only by default. Communicator 4.7 was just not good enough for anyone to recommend.
Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: November 30, 2000
Revised: November 30, 2000