Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Netscape Browser Review

I’ve installed and had a play with Netscape Browser, the new prototype Netscape based on Firefox (CNet news story). I’d do a full review if I had time, but, in summary…
it sucks.
I’m really sorry to the people who developed it but it does symbolise Netscape’s problems of the past 6 years, which, from the looks of things they’ve yet to learn from. Here’s what I don’t like about it:

  • The theme, while looking okay generally, is too dark and non-Windows-ish. The main window just doesn’t feel like a Windows program
  • The main windows is far too cramped. Firefox gets it right with the 5 key buttons, address bar, search box and user bookmarks toolbar. Netscape tries to throw in a whole load of extras that just clutter it up
  • Those scrolling newstickers are very annoying. Especially as there’s 2 of them.
  • And I don’t like the weather thing either. Sure, ask me if I’d like those things installed but don’t provide them for me
  • The ‘new tab’ button is huge, and I don’t like the extra clutter in the tabs (close button and security indicator)
  • From a security standpoint I’m concerned about support for IE’s rendering engine. Sure, it’s disabled by default and is initially only used for microsoft.com, but the very fact it’s there at all is a little disturbing, considering the current flaws in the system. incidentally when using the IE engine the browser identifies itself entirely as IE and doesn’t modify the user agent in any way.
  • Opening a new tab with Ctrl+T by default loads the current tab in the new tab by default. You can turn it off but personally I find this annoying.
  • Why is the menu bar on to the right of the screen? Almost every other application bar RealPlayer puts it on the left where people expect it.
  • Boy is this thing bloated. Firefox is under 5MB to download, Netscape is nearly 12MB – larger than the Mozilla suite, which of course includes an email client, web page editor and chat program in the package. It’s also pretty big once installed, yet I’m at pains to nail down exactly what makes it so much bigger.
  • And boy is this thing slow. Even the Mozilla Suite is faster than this. Opening Help caused the browser to hang for a full 20 seconds.
  • Obviously it’s a prototype but I’m sure Kevin Gerich and Steven Horlander will be pleased to know that they’ve apparently been credited with this theme in the Themes dialog. There are other bugs, like the Help menu disappearing off the right of the screen when maximised.
  • Being able to manage browser settings on a per-site basis is a nice touch, but why are popups allowed by default on netscape.com? Surely if one of its key features is popup blocking (which even has an icon on the default toolbar) then it should block popups on the default homepage?
  • While I’d expect it to add icons to my start menu, I’d prefer not to have desktop and quick launch icons, especially if I didn’t ask for them. Apple’s QuickTime is also guilty of this but that doesn’t make it any more right.

I did point out a couple of things I liked about this but to be honest I’m really not impressed, and to some extent saddened that this release is so poor. To sum up, it’s too ugly, cramped and bloated, and unless something is done to address those then I can’t see it taking off, especially when pitted against its nearest relative, Firefox.
Henrik Gemal has some screenshots if you’re interested.
Update: Alex Bishop of MozillaZine has a more in-depth review.

8 Comments

  1. I’d throw in the annoyance that it’s based on 0.9.3 rather than 1.0 – but give them time and I’m sure they’ll fix that.
    The IE rendering is indeed a concern. However, I would like to be able to run windowsupdate from within Firefox – and this would surely be a wise way of doing it would it not?

  2. Thanks, then I won’t waste my time playing with it.

  3. Fantastic Netscape

    Neil at Neil’s World has had a chance to play around with the prototype Netscape browser that is based on Firefox. He is, to say the least, not impressed. He’s a little concerned that they’ve built in support for Internet Explorer’s rendition engine – …

  4. Incidently when using the IE engine the browser identifies itself entirely as IE and doesn’t modify the user agent in any way.

    Ouch. That’s not good. I can see web-app authors throwing fits; it’s not just the rendering engine people detect from the UA.

  5. Heh just looking at the UI threw me off hence I never signed up for the testing. The small screen they put up just turned me off!

  6. I generally like the idea of windows having their own visual style (well, i know its not technically a visual style but i can’t place a better term)
    But geez, them screenshots, does anyone at netscape have any comprehension of human input standards?

  7. That is just such a cluttered main screen. I’m currently running Opera (and very happy with it) and all I have on the main screen are the 8 small buttons on the address bar at the top and my personal bar on the bottom (with my favourite, favourite links in). The new Netscape screen is far, far too busy for general surfing surely?

  8. Netscape – double play?

    You know that thing about talking 2 different designs to the client. One ugly(or too simple and done to death) and the other pretty attractive and worthy. Well you force the client to choose what you want. They will obviously…