Bugs delay AOL Netscape beta

AOL is delaying the release of a test version of a new Netscape browser until the end of the month to fix bugs, the company said Wednesday.

America Online (AOL) is delaying the release of the first public test version of a new Netscape Web browser until the end of the month to fix some last-minute bugs, the company said Wednesday.

The beta version of the Netscape 8 browser was scheduled to be publicly available on Thursday, but the release date will slip by a week or two, an AOL spokesman said in a statement sent via e-mail. An early version of the browser seen by the IDG News Service late last month crashed many times under normal use.

The new Netscape browser is designed to protect users from scams and malicious code while surfing the Web. For example, the browser includes a feature that adjusts the browser security settings based on a list of known malicious Web sites to protect users from phishing scams.

With the release, AOL is taking aim at Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser, which has had many security vulnerabilities. In addition, AOL is looking to piggyback on the popularity of Firefox, the open source Web browser that was released in November and has since been downloaded more than 25 million times.

In an about-face, Microsoft on Tuesday said it would release a test version of a new IE browser midyear. Previously the company had said it would not release a new browser until it ships the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, in 2006. There has not been a new version of IE in four years. The new IE 7.0 will also address security issues such as phishing, Microsoft said.

Phishing scams are a prevalent type of online attack that typically combines spam e-mail messages and fraudulent Web pages that look like legitimate e-commerce sites. The attacks are designed to steal sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers.

Netscape 8 is based on Firefox but also supports the IE browser engine. AOL released a preview version of the browser to a select group of testers in late November. The Netscape browser doesn't include the IE engine but uses the engine that is included in Windows. As a result, the Netscape 8 browser only works on Windows computers.

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Joris Evers

IDG News Service
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