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Netscape Netcenter to launch redesign

Netcenter, the Web portal for America Online subsidiary Netscape Communications, is close to relaunching its site in a bid to draw more daytime traffic.

Netcenter, the Web portal for America Online subsidiary Netscape Communications, is close to relaunching its site in a bid to draw more daytime traffic.

Two alternate beta versions of the redesign went live recently at two URLs: "http://home.netscape.com/index_c.html?cp=HOMFB" and "http://home.netscape.com/index_c.html?cp=HOMDB."

"These are two new home page designs that we are considering for Netcenter," said Nathan Tyler, a Netscape spokesman. He would not disclose a date for Netcenter's relaunch.

The dueling designs are not set in stone, but they could provide a clue about more significant changes down the road.

According to sources at AOL, the company is mulling the launch of a Netscape-branded daytime online service, a move aimed at drawing customers from the workplace. Most AOL members log on to the service only at night.

Because employees typically do not have access to AOL at work, the service would be built around Netscape products, combining Netcenter's content with Netscape's browser technology. Sources added that AOL could use its ties with Sun Microsystems to bundle the Netscape service into Sun's computing systems, which are sold exclusively to businesses.

"A Netscape ISP is something we've mentioned in the past. It's not something we're ruling out as a future option," Tyler said.

Compared with the current version of Netcenter, the redesign seems considerably more complex. The site contains a search bar at the top that leads Web queries to numerous search engines as well as to its own Netscape Search. Arranged horizontally beneath the bar is a collection of links to popular Web features, such as auctions, classifieds, MP3 downloads, TV listings and a yellow page directory.

Scrolling down, the site is broken into two parts. The section on the left shows tabs to "business" and "leisure" functions, while the section on the right shows pictures and breaking headlines from the day and lists the site's content channels below.

One version shows an additional bar squeezed into the left side of the screen that lists sections such as "Top Picks," "Today's News" powered by ABCNews.com and a "Toolbox" that features links to address books and shareware.