Netscape updates Communicator

The firm calls its latest Communicator update a "maintenance release," but the new 4.06 version is more of a sneak preview of its anticipated 4.5 product.

Netscape Communications is calling its latest Communicator update a "maintenance release," but the new version is more of a sneak preview of the company's anticipated 4.5 product.

Communicator 4.06, released today, includes many of the Communicator 4.5 features that Netscape has been trumpeting as means of integrating the company's browser with its Netcenter portal site.

These include two of the features that fall under Netscape's "Smart Browsing" initiative: "Internet Keywords," which lets users perform Web searches in the URL address bar and directs users in some cases to Netcenter index pages; and "What's Related," which automatically generates lists, culled from Netcenter databases, of related Web sites as users surf the Web.

A third component of Smart Browsing, the content filter Netwatch, is included in Communicator 4.06. It is not directly integrated with Netcenter.

The Netscape toolbar button in Communicator 4.06 links to the Netcenter personalization page.

Communicator 4.06 also includes fixes for bugs such as the "long file name mail vulnerability," reported last month. Netscape today reiterated its recommendation that users upgrade to 4.06 to protect against the flaw, while noting that "no known occurrences of lost or stolen data as a result of this bug" have been reported to the company.

Netscape released the beta version of Communicator 4.5 last month. Since then, the company has been garnering user feedback, which it described today as "overwhelmingly positive."

However, the "Internet Keywords" feature has met with controversy. A generic name typed into the address bar of previous versions of the Communicator browser would take the user, in the case of the generic term "scripting," to "," "," or "," depending on the user's preferences. But with the advent of Internet Keywords, those generic requests instead will yield a Netcenter page listing a variety of scripting resources on the Web.

Other additions to Communicator 4.06 include various enhancements in Java Development Kit 1.1 support, built-in support for Macromedia's Flash plug-in (following a partnership between the companies announced in June); built-in support for America Online's Instant Messenger software; and an import utility for Macintosh users of Qualcomm's Eudora email client software.

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