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Netscape living Internet years

Barely seven weeks after releasing the eagerly anticipated Version 3.0 of its Web browser, Netscape takes its first stab at weeding out bugs in Navigator.

Barely seven weeks after releasing the eagerly anticipated Version 3.0 of its Web browser, Netscape Communications (NSCP) today took its first stab at weeding out bugs in Navigator.

The company has posted a beta of an upgrade, version 3.01 beta 1, to its Web site. The new edition of Navigator fixes what Netscape officials call minor bugs in the browser, including problems with the display and functioning of certain Java applets and several bugs specific to the Macintosh version of Navigator, according to Donna Sukolsky, a Netscape spokeswoman. Sukolsky could not say how many Java applets were affected by the Java bug. The new Navigator also fixes a problem in Navigator 3.0's HTML syntax for calling device drivers.

Navigator 3.01 beta 1 is available on Netscape's FTP site.

As the pressure to produce new innovations in their products increases, Netscape and Microsoft both have been churning out new browsers at an amazing pace. The price is that the final releases have a much higher proportion of bugs than once would have been acceptable for commercial software. But, thanks to the distribution powers of the Web, the companies try to compensate by keeping up a nearly constant stream of minor upgrades, called "point releases."

In the past, Netscape has regularly posted minor iterations of each major release of its browser, each containing bug fixes and feature improvements. This comes after posting as many as seven different beta versions of Navigator during testing.

But Version 3.0 may break this pattern. The new beta copy of Navigator comes just days before the rollout of a major browser upgrade, an event that could come as early as next week. As previously reported by CNET, Netscape has been working furiously to prepare a beta version of Navigator 4.0, code-named Galileo, by the opening day of its Internet Developer Conference in New York next week. Company officials would not comment today on the release date of Navigator 4.0.

Netscape could leapfrog Version 3.0 and encourage users to move on to upgrades of Version 4.0, which presumably would fix bugs found in 3.0. Or it could test Version 4.0 and continue releasing fixes for 3.0 in parallel.

As for Microsoft, Netscape's archrival has not specified any plans for releasing a bug-fix version of its Explorer 3.0, although it is cataloging known Explorer "issues," or bugs, on its Web site.