Netscape 5

Netscape has been working on Version 5 of their Navigator
Browser for quite some time. For many reasons including
Netscape's acquisition by AOL, Navigator 5's release was
delayed for at least a year longer than promised. The latest
news that I heard was that a beta was scheduled for last
December but I have not been able to find any info on it.

We can assume that sooner or later Navigator 5 will be
released. For Web Designers and HTML authors, Navigator 5
will incorporate several significant changes from Version 4
that may require major modifications to your existing web site
HTML code.

At the heart of Navigator 5 will be a new display engine code-
named "gecko". This will provide full compliance with the
W3C's specification for HTML 4.0, CSS1 and the Document
Object Model (DOM). Support for CSS2 and i's positioning
capabilities should also be provided.

What all this means is that Netscape 5 will be more
compatible with IE 4 and IE 5 than with NN 4. If both IE 4
and IE 5 were also fully compatible with the W3C
specifications for HTML 4 everything would be great for web
authors. But of course they are not. The Web Designer is
consequently going to be forced to address three different
Browser specifications to provide a web site that works
reliably for the majority of visitors.

Hopefully the necessary modifications will be minor. This will
vary depending upon your current coding style and tag usage.
Interestingly, more sophisticated web sites will not necessarily
be more affected than simpler sites. The reason is that the
more advanced sites are already designed to cater to the
differences in the Browsers. Simply telling the Browser to use
the IE4/5 code with NN5 will work for a lot of sites. Since
these sites are already designed to handle different browsers,
setting up special handlers for the few IE 4/5 tags that are not
supported by the W3C such as BGSOUND should be
relatively simple.

The larger task will be for sites that are designed to work with
both IE and NN without any special handlers. These sites will
discover that tags such as LAYER will no longer work with
NN5 since they are not part of the W3C standard. It will either
be necessary to include special handlers into the web page or
to modify the existing code to work with all 3 Browser

The Layer tag for example, can be substituted with the <DIV
style …> tag which should work with all four Browser
versions: NN4, NN5, IE4 and IE5. In the following example,
the <DIV> tag is used to replace the equivalent <LAYER>

<LAYER left=100 top=100>
<H1>My Text</H1>

<DIV style="position: absolute; left: 100px; top: 100px">
<H1>My Text</H1>


Many advanced sites will need to create special handlers for
Netscape 4, Netscape 5 and Internet Explorer 4 and 5. This
can be done by checking the make and version of the Browser
being used. The following example illustrates how this is done
using JavaScript.

if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf("MSIE") != -1) {
if (navigator.appVersion.charAt(0) >= "4") isIE45=true;
else if (navigator.appName == "Netscape") {
if (navigator.appVersion.charAt(0) >= "5") isNav5=true;
else if (navigator.appVersion.charAt(0) >= "4") isNav4=true;


If your existing IE 4 and 5 code does not use any non standard
HTML 4 then you could simply set isIE45 true on the test for
Netscape 5;

There will undoubtedly be more issues and problems that Web
authors will need to be aware of when Netscape 5 is finally
released. Until then we will just have to wait and see.

The following links have several past articles related to
Netscape 5.

Get Ready for Navigator 5.0 DHTML
Has Communicator lost the browser war?
Netscape Counts on Layout Engine to Propel Navigator 5.0

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.
Web Engine
For the best in D HTML editors
Click here for a free WYSIWYG pixel precision HTML editor.
IMS WebTips

Archive by Topic
Archive by Date
Virtual Mechanics