Was Netscape 6 Worth The Wait? Signs Point To No

Few companies have ridden a rollercoaster of existence comparable to that of Netscape. In the early days of the Web, way back in 1995, Netscape and the World Wide Web were nearly one in the same. Early versions of Netscapeis Navigator brought the WWW to many users, and did so with an easy to use, full-featured product.

Those were the days.

After Microsoft got a whiff of the future that Netscape was firmly in control of, Microsoft focused much of its significant energies in positioning Internet Explorer as the browser of choice. For whatever the reasons, from leveraging the Windows desktop to actually making a superior product, IE emerged from the bloody war victorious. While IE continued to improve, Netscape and the Communicator suite had not undergone a major overhaul in nearly three years. That is, until yesterday. With little hype or fanfare, Netscape released the long awaited update to their suite of Internet product, Netscape 6.0. However, was it worth the wait?

Early signs indicate that the answer to that question is a resounding "NO!"

Forums and message boards across the Web have been littered with Netscape hate messages, with a few, very few, positive comments found in between. The software clearinghouse, VersionTracker, allows users to rate a product on a 1-5 scale. With over 15,000 downloads and 335+ reviews, Netscape 6.0 has registered an underwhelming 2.0. Some of the user comments [Editoris Note: All posts have been left as they appeared in the forums as of press time. This includes misspellings and mistakes in grammar]:

Well, I have never submitted a review before until now. This app stinks. The pages render inconsistantly and there are bugs throughout. I am very dissappointed Netscape considers this a non-beta product. It is going to be hard to stick with this one.

I have installed Netscape 6 on my mac 6500 with system 9.04 and find: 1. it annoying that I get a user profile window everytime I open the program 2. that my helper application selections did not transfer from the old Netscape 4.7 to Netscape 6 3. startup is much slower than before 4. when using the mail feature you must open the window and then select read mail rather than being able to go directly. All in all it is a waste of time so I have trashed the application.

A horrible, horrible attempt at a browser. The nightly builds of Mozilla fair far better than this piece of...well, you know. Lets face it, folks. Office 2001 and IE are two of the best Mac products ever.

slow is right. buggy too. glad itis free, i wouldnit pay for this. sorry netscape, try again? big deal, themes. damn ugly one too.

Some people have reported itis fast, some have reported itis slow. I canit tell, myself--I canit avoid crashing long enough to go anywhere.

Crashes frequently on both OS 9.0.4 and 9.1. The browser failed to import my settings from 4.76 and recognize my Netcenter account. Given that Mozilla has yet to release a new milestone it is clear that this project IS NOT OVER. 6.0 uses up more RAM (given 160 MB of it) than 4.7x did; so much for their claim of having a leaner browser. Still has a hard time rendering some Javascript and remembering window positions. AOL should burn in hell for prematurely releasing this browser. The one star is rightly deserved since it is now *final*. AND WHAT THE HELL ARE ALL OF THESE XUL FILES?

I intended to give this thing at least 3 stars, but I canit do that. On a system that was clean installed with latest updates YESTERDAY, this thing crashed the finder upn start every single time. Thatis OK though, Iive always been an IE fan anyway, so my feelings arenit hurt. Iim trashing Netscape until version 6.1 comes out in another 2 years, then Iill give it another shot. 

While there is indeed some positive feedback, the above examples are more indicative of the overall feel from the VersionTracker crowd.

Readers over at MacCentral are not much happier. Some comments from that site:

IT SUCKED. From minuet i opened this darn application, it was probobly the slowest thing i have ever used in my life. - no not kidding. Horrable. yes it was slower than a pc..... Just plain Horrable. [Editors Note: These postings have not been modified, spelling is left as it was in the original.]

NS 6 is terrible....

I spent the last half hour downloading the ilatest & greatesti netscape... I donit like it. Itis unstable, its fat, and its user unfriendly. Well its fat and I donit mean itill run on my quadra. It uses four times the memory as IE 5. Is this really necessary? 24Mb of ram for a web browser?! Sure you can change the look, but why? All the skins look like they were written using the iuglyi compiler. You could print out a screen shot and use it to make gorilla posters. A computeris user interface is supposed to be used in every program. Like my Mac OS, simple no? It makes the programs intuitive, easy to learn and use. Netscape, no matter which way you slice it, is not a GUI replacement. If there is a shread of morality left in the Netscape building, crash your FTP server and delete the source code, AOL had crushed your style...

Iim writing this after ten minutes of N6 use and a first CRASH! I was trying to install a theme. Theyire the only cool thing i can think of. The sidebar is almostuseless (go ahead and make it, at least, a real clone of the one in IE5, M$ has stolen so much..instant karma). Propaganda apart the renderer is almost on par with Tasman, the one of IE. I still like the idea of ANOTHER competitor on the browser war, but please make one worth the download..puh-leeezee!

Tried this thing and itis not really diffrent from the preview version that was just out. Is this a preview sitll? Memories of IE 4 swim through my head. Oh what a nightmare!

While, as we said, there are a few positive comments about Netscape 6.0, they are far outnumbered by the negatives. This article does not give equal time to the positive comments, but if you look hard enough at VersionTracker, MacCentral, or any number of other forums, you will be sure to find them.

As for our personal experience, download and installation was painless, and rendering speed and quality were very good. The interface is, fortunately, customizable. The "Modern" theme was found to be unbearable. The integrated Instant Messaging client worked flawlessly, and the mail and news reader functioned without a hitch. However, stability was, as best, questionable. We have been spoiled by OS X Beta for the last two months, having had the system hard crash and force a restart only twice during that time. Netscape 6.0 under OS 9.0.4 crashed the system, forcing a restart, twice while trying to research and write this story.

While there are those that are pleased as punch with the new release, the product seems to be playing a futile game of "catch-up" with IE in both features and stability. However, do not take our word for it. You can find more information, and download links, at the Netscape web site if you care to give the product a try for yourself.