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Netscape to launch Netcenter, China site

Netscape is reorganizing its Web site to include a free "members-only" service that gathers together news, community groups, and software.

    Netscape Communications (NSCP) is reorganizing its Web site to include a free "members-only" service that gathers together news, community groups, and software.

    Dubbed "Netcenter," the new offering is a compendium of services, most of which are already available at the Netscape Web site, which the company says draws more than 4 million visits a day. It will be split into three sections: content, community, and software.

    Targeted at business and professional users familiar with the Internet, Netcenter is Netscape's effort to capitalize on the 65 million users of its Navigator and Communicator Web browsers. The service will launch next week.

    In addition, the company is making forays into China, naming China Internet Corporation as the first Netscape international affiliate to set up satellite Netscape Web sites with local languages and content. The company already operates Web sites in ten foreign languages and will continue to operate those on its own rather than turn them into affiliates, according to Netscape vice president Jennifer Bailey.

    "We want to pull people to Netscape's business partners," company chief executive James Barksdale said today. "To do that, we make our browser ubiquitous, and Netcenter is how we are going to link those 65 million users to the world's busiest Web site."

    But Barksdale and other Netscape executives said the software company will not enter the content business and does not intend to compete with its customers that are content providers, differentiating itself from Microsoft, which has myriad content ventures.

    CIC will be translating Netscape content into Chinese and providing local business and financial content. Shareholders in privately held CIC include Sun Microsystems, Bay Networks and Bechtel Enterprises, but it relies on a high-speed network owned by the government linking 200 Chinese cities.

    Peter Yip, CIC executive vice chairman, said his company is responsible for assuring that content on the Netscape site conforms to China's media laws, as CIC already does for business and financial information it distributes from Reuters, Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and Japan's Nikkei Business.

    "Media law in China is opening up and getting a global point of view," Yip said, adding that he expects further loosening soon, especially in business and financial information sectors. The launch date of the Chinese-language site was not disclosed.

    For Netcenter, the content section will feature the Netscape Guide by Yahoo, a set of pages that links users to the latest information on the Web, and Inbox Direct, an email service that feeds subscribers headlines from various news organizations. By the end of the year, Netscape will launch a new content service called Industry Watch that draws on industry newsletters and news. Netcenter will also include the Channel Finder and access to search engines.

    In cooperation with ISP Concentric Networks, the revamped site will add a new "Virtual Office," targeted at small businesses. Virtual Office will function as an IS department for smaller firms, giving them email, Internet access, and collaborative services on an outsourced basis. Prices for the service begin at $29 for one user or $249 for 25.

    The community section will give users access to a business information center called "Professional Community" that will be available by the end of the year.

    The software section will continue to offer Netscape software, which can be instantly updated with the SmartUpdate feature, and will also offer third-party software from more than 100 software companies such as Borland, Corel, IBM, Symantec, and Sun that support Netscape's ONE development platform. The "Software Depot" is done in partnership with CyberSource, which operates online software store software.net.

    Netcenter users will be able to sign up for VeriSign digital certificates if they want to buy and sell goods via the service, which will offer both Netscape and third-party software.