Netscape 6

Netscape has just released a preview version of their new
Netscape 6 Browser. As expected, some quick tests indicate that
it is probably more compatible with Internet Explorer than with
its own predecessors.

I have updated the article I wrote on Netscape 5's pending
release several months ago.  I don't know when or why its
designation jumped from 5 to 6. If I find out I will let you know.
Next week I will report on our actual findings and some of the
possible problems web authors will be faced with.

If you wish, you can download and test Netscape 6 Preview
release for yourself from: Netscape Preview Release
On our Win 2000 test machine it installed without interfering
with existing copies of Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer.

Netscape has been working on Version 6 of their Navigator
Browser for quite some time. For many reasons including
Netscape's acquisition by AOL, Navigator 6 release was delayed
for at least a year longer than promised. This week Netscape
finally released their Preview Version.

For Web Designers and HTML authors, Navigator 6 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 6 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 it's positioning
capabilities should also be provided.

What all this means is that Netscape 6 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 may 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
NN6 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 flavors.

The Layer tag for example, can be substituted with the <DIV
style > tag which should work with all four Browser versions:
NN4, NN6, IE4 and IE5. In the following example, the <DIV>
tag is used to replace the equivalent <LAYER> tag.

<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 6 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

if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf("MSIE") != -1) {
if (navigator.appVersion.charAt(0) >= "4")      isIE45=true;
else if (navigator.appName == "Netscape") {
if (navigator.appVersion.charAt(0) >= "6")      isNav6=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 6;

There will undoubtedly be more issues and problems that web
authors will need to be aware of to fully support Netscape 6.
Over the next week we will test the Preview version and report
on our findings in next weeks newsletter.

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

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

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright
1999-2000 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.
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