AOL updates Netscape browser

A new version of the Netscape browser with a tweaked interface and an upgraded e-mail program was released Thursday by AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) subsidiary Netscape Communications Corp.

Netscape 7.0 adds to the browser a handful of new features and an onslaught of branding linking the browser to other products and content from AOLTW's diverse portfolio.

The update adds support for tabbed browsing, a feature proving popular in Netscape cousin Mozilla that launches links in a new tab rather than a separate window, and brings slight changes to Netscape Mail, such as simplified mail filters. The new Netscape also tightens integration between the browser and related products, introducing a stand-alone Net radio client and adding built-in access to AOL's ICQ instant messaging client and support for more features of AOL Instant Messenger. A new toolbar offers users content from AOLTW publications, a move in line with AOL's stated strategy of making Netscape a "cross-promotional engine" connecting its properties.

The release comes on the heels of a study from Internet researcher WebSideStory Inc. that reports Netscape's market share has dwindled to 3.4 percent, a sharp drop from the 13 percent share it held a year ago. Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer now dominates the industry, with a 96 percent market share, the research firm said. Still, AOLTW cites Netscape as a significant factor in the 50 percent traffic increase it's seen in the past year to its network of Web sites. Traffic to Netscape.com has grown 20 percent year-over-year, with 21 million unique visitors hitting the site in July, according to the company.

The new release comes a year and a half after the last major update, Netscape 6.0. Localized versions of Netscape 7.0 are being launched Thursday in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany and Japan, Netscape said. The browser is available as a free download at http://channels.netscape.com/ns/browsers/.

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