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Netscape fixes Netcaster beta glitch

Netscape Communications posts a new version of its beta Netcaster software that works with the latest version of its Communicator software suite.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) posted yesterday a new version of its beta Netcaster software that works with the latest version of its Communicator software suite.

Yesterday's release of Netcaster PR3a, a feature-complete but not-yet-final version of the company's push channel tuner, was necessary because the previous PR3 release didn't work with Communicator 4.01a. Communicator 4.01a patched up a JavaScript hole that allowed theft of Web browser data. (See related story)

The Netcaster-Communicator incompatibility stemmed from the company's "smart update" feature, which only allowed users of earlier Communicator 4.0 versions to download the Netcaster beta. The smart update mechanism downloads only the part of the software that needs to be fixed or added, sparing users the need to download the entire Communicator suite each time a new fix is posted.

Netscape is battling Microsoft to win mainstream Net users by turning the Web browser into an automatic receiver of Web pages. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 entered its first public beta last week, and a final version is due later this year.

Written entirely in Java, Netcaster was due to ship as part of the Communicator suite in June, but the launch was delayed for extra beta testing. The PR3 beta release adds a couple of new features:

  • A channel status light. Channels with recently updated information have a green light, those experiencing errors in transmission will have a red light, and those with no new information will have no light at all.
  • Support for "robots.txt" files so that Web sites can block Netcaster, which uses "crawler" software to gather and download pages from accessing specific URLs. Crawlers and robots always make the "robots.txt" file of a Web site their first stop on a visit in order to get instructions.

    The final version of Netcaster is due in August. Users who already have Communicator will be able to download Netcaster from the Netscape "smart update" site. It will also be integrated into the Communicator suite on CD-ROM, according to director of client product marketing Mike Po.