Friday, March 04, 2005

Netscape Browser 8.0 Beta

Beta of the new Netscape Browser is available for download. Download is twice the size of Firefox, perhaps because they have added so many new things (bloat?) to it. Firefox extensions won't work on it either. Daniel Glazman (NVU WYSIWYG Html Editor developer) has done a review, and he does not like it.

The first time I tried it, it crashed. Did managed to get it running, but it still crashes frequently. When it crashes, the feedback agent does not load (which is strange as it is in beta). It also uses Trident (IE rendering engine) on pages, which shows they have little confidence in Gecko, or code for IE (why do they do this?).

The user agent string (Win2k) is: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.7.5) Gecko/20050302 Firefox/0.9.6 Build number: 20050302, so browser sniffing will pick it up as Firefox 0.9.6 (which is a bad way of detection, feature sniffing (if(document.getElementById){...}) is better). A better string would be Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.7.5) Gecko/20050302 Firefox/1.0 Netscape/0.9.6, as this indicates it is based on Firefox, but is Netscape 0.9.6 (build number is removed, as that is already part of the user agent string (Gecko/20050302)

It just looks like it is another IE shell after all. Also, if you mark a site as trusted, it sets Trident as the rendering engine, then informs you that there are known vulnerabilities with the Internet Explorer rendering engine. If this appears, why is Trident used for trusted sites?

While it may have some good ideas behind it (site controls, multi-bar), I do not think it is a very good browser. Firefox is a lot better, it is far more flexible and is not controlled by corporate interests (i.e. tying you into a service). It could be made to work like Netscape via an extension - one that works like Site Controls (i.e. pick between Trident and Gecko, disable ActiveX, certain JavaScript features), but it should not be part of Firefox (which it can't be as Trident is not on other OS's anyway) as that would encourage developers to simply tell the user to switch to IE mode.

Edit: 13:05

Blake Ross has done a review as well. The main problem is with the non-standard title bar and menu (Netscape's menu is on the right)

Edit: 09 Mar 2005

Part 2 of Blake Ross's review of Netscape 8. He outlines the inconsistencies you get when you switch rendering engines (print preview, context menus, page info, RSS, finding text etc). Some of these may even be unfixable (hard coded into IE engine?).

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