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Netscape 7.0 rekindles browser battles

America Online's Netscape subsidiary launches a preview of its newest Web browser, another sign of AOL's reinvigorated campaign to win consumers back from Microsoft.

America Online's Netscape Communications subsidiary on Wednesday launched a preview of its newest Web browser, another sign of AOL's reinvigorated campaign to win consumers back from Microsoft.

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Netscape 7.0 is the latest browser version developed around a technology called Gecko, which was created by an open-source browser movement known as Mozilla and funded by AOL. Over the past year, the online giant has been testing Gecko in preview versions of its popular flagship AOL service.

Although AOL uses Microsoft's Internet Explorer as its default Web browser, the company has been clear about its intentions for reviving Netscape. It is beta testing its AOL 7.0 online service with Gecko for both Windows and Mac users, and its CompuServe subsidiary is using Gecko in the official version of its service.

"'Browser wars' is a catchy term but not necessarily apropos," said AOL spokesman Marty Gordon. "Microsoft was found to be engaging in monopolistic behavior. We think consumers want a choice, and Netscape is giving it to them."

Gordon would not say whether future generations of the AOL service plan to drop IE as the default Web-browsing technology.

Web browsers do not generate direct revenue to companies, but they have the power to route people to Web sites through buttons and links featured throughout the software's interface. Netscape 7.0 comes bundled with buttons to AOL Instant Messenger, Netscape Mail, RealNetworks' streaming media player, Internet telephony service Net2Phone, and AOL Music's Radio@Netscape service.

Along with the new preview release, Netscape unveiled a makeover of its home page, The changes only tweak its interface design, and the page continues to act as a traffic funnel to content produced by parent company AOL Time Warner. For example, the site still taps sites such as CNN for breaking news, Time magazine for commentary, and and People for entertainment gossip.