AOL Preparing Netscape Browser 9.0

Although it hasn't seen a major update in well over a year, the Netscape browser is about to get a makeover, according to a teaser posted to the Netscape blog. Version 9.0 of the software, which AOL reincarnated in 2005, is due in the coming months.

An AOL spokesperson declined to discuss specifics with BetaNews just yet, but a number of things are already known about Netscape 9. Most notably, the browser will have deep integration with the new Netscape.com user-driven news site that debuted last year and mirrored the functionality of Digg.com.

Also, developers say it will remain a standalone product built atop Mozilla's Firefox code base; it will not contain a mail client or Web page editor. Instead, the browser will integrate a number of different Firefox extensions that relate to Netscape.com, including a Friends' Activity Sidebar and Sitemail Notifier.

While version 8 of Netscape was largely outsourced to Mercurial Communications, AOL has created its own development team for 9.0. The new browser will now be cross-platform, compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Smaller features are getting focused on for 9.0, such as a redesign of Netscape's FTP view.

When it was first reborn, the Netscape Browser was intended to be a friendlier version of Firefox, adding more privacy features and phishing protections, as well as the option to render pages using Internet Explorer's Trident engine for compatibility. The software included a "Trust Rating" system that warned users of potentially dangerous Web sites.

However, uptake was slow as Firefox adoption soared, leading many to speculate the effort would simply be abandoned. Now, it seems AOL ostensibly plans to pitch Netscape 9 as a complementary desktop application to Netscape.com.

Netscape developers plan to publish new information about version 9.0 each week on the Netscape Blog.

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