Microsoft: New Netscape Breaks IE

Microsoft is advising users of Netscape 8 to either uninstall the software or edit their computer's Registry files because of a bug in America Online's new browser.

According to a Microsoft engineer, Netscape 8 disables the XML (Extensible Markup Language) rendering capabilities in Internet Explorer, meaning that some Web pages will not be visible in IE after Netscape 8 is installed.

In a posting today to the Internet Explorer Weblog, Microsoft's Dave Massy, senior program manager for Internet Explorer, said that his company had confirmed the problem, which had previously been reported on Internet newsgroups and forums. "If you navigate in IE to an XML file such as an RSS feed ... rather than seeing the data you are presented with a blank page," he wrote. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format widely used to keep track of updates to Web sites.

Massy offered two workarounds to the problem: uninstalling Netscape 8, or deleting the XML node from a Registry file entitled HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Plugins\Extension.

Official Fix Coming

According to AOL, however, these measures are unnecessary. "This issue affects a very small number of users who visit sites that require that advanced technology," said Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesperson.

The company plans sometime next week to issue a fix to the problem, which will be delivered to users via Netscape's auto-update feature. "We would not encourage people to uninstall or affect their browser settings," Weinstein said. "It's a minor issue."

The bug is the second piece of bad news concerning Netscape 8 for AOL, which unveiled the eagerly anticipated browser last Thursday. Within hours of the initial release, AOL found itself scrambling to patch more than 40 security holes in the software.

The free browser combines many of the features of IE and the open-source Firefox browser, and has been promoted as a secure and easy-to-use product. AOL laid off the bulk of its Netscape software development team in 2003, and the work on Netscape 8 was largely completed by Mercurial Communications in Victoria, British Columbia.

Netscape 8 is the first major upgrade to the once-dominant browser since 2002.

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