Netscape Navigator 5

Netscape Communications Corp.'s lead engineer says the company is working on a fast new layout and rendering engine that will keep the next version of its Web browser "ahead of the game."

The layout engine, named Gecko, is at the core of Navigator 5.0, and Netscape Director of Engineering Rick Gessner said it will be the fastest, smallest and most standards-compliant layout engine available -- features that Netscape (Nasdaq:NSCP) hopes will help it win its bloody browser war with rival Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT).

Currently at Version 4.51, Netscape said Navigator 5 is scheduled for a beta release by July and commercial Mac and Windows versions by year-end.

Gecko previewed
Gessner gave a preview showing of Gecko's features earlier this week at a meeting of the Silicon Valley WebGuild in Santa Clara, Calif. He said Gecko will make Navigator 5 more flexible in its handling of Web data while maintaining a "tiny footprint."

With Gecko, "we are way ahead of the game with CSS," or cascading style sheets, Gessner said."We have a great CSS1, a great XML story, and soon, a great CSS2 story." Other features in the layout engine include support for Document Object Model, a mechanism for manipulating documents via C++ or JavaScript; a high-speed compositing and rendering engine; and support for XUL, a user-interface language.

Gessner said Navigator will follow a standards-based, open-source development strategy, and he emphasized the modular nature of Gecko. He said updates will be released as Web standards evolve from organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium.

Gessner said Netscape learned some important lessons from an experiment with a Java version of the browser, code-named Zena. "We learned that Web standards are the most important thing we do in Netscape now," he said -- more important than trying to control browser market.


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