November 17, 2004 5:02 PM PST

Netscape aims beyond Firefox

Once chided for jumping the gun with its Mozilla-based browser, Netscape is gunning to surpass the original with its next release.

Netscape on Wednesday confirmed an earlier report that it planned to release a new browser based on the Mozilla code. The America Online unit this week issued an invitation for people to sign up to test a limited prototype of the update, to be released Nov. 30.

In its invitation to testers, Netscape didn't resist the urge to take a few veiled swipes at Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which has fended off chronic security problems.

"We are excited that, on Nov. 30, we will unveil many new features that will empower your Internet experience," reads a note on the Netscape portal signed by the Netscape browser team. "While other browsers have seen little improvement over recent years--except frequent patches for security leaks--we have consistently added new features to save you time and to make the most out of your time online. As a part of our next evolutionary step, we have developed this new browser prototype, which could change the way the world masters the Web."

In 1998, the then-independent Netscape established Mozilla to oversee the open-source development of its browser. Netscape's releases have been based on Mozilla's work since the ill-reviewed Netscape 6 four years ago, and versions through the current Netscape 7.2 have hewed fairly closely to the latest Mozilla build.

This time, however, Netscape may have a few tricks up its sleeve.

"This is a significant step forward, an all-new browser," said AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein. "The frame goes beyond the Mozilla frame, and the engine might have some surprises."

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