Bugs Delay AOL Netscape Beta

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America Online is delaying the release of the first public test version of a new Netscape Web browser until the end of the month so that it can fix some last-minute bugs, the company said today.

The beta version of the Netscape 8 browser had been scheduled for public release tomorrow, but that 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 that the IDG News Service saw 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. One feature, for example, adjusts the browser security settings based on a list of known malicious Web sites to protect users from phishing scams.

With this release, AOL takes aim at Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer Web browser, which has suffered from many security vulnerabilities. In addition, AOL is looking to piggyback on the popularity of Mozilla's Firefox, an open-source Web browser released in November that has since been downloaded more than 25 million times.

New Internet Explorer

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

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

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 it uses the engine that is incorporated in Windows. As a result, the Netscape 8 browser works only on Windows computers.

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