Communicator 4.5 beta released

Netscape launches a public beta test of the latest version of its Net software suite, which integrates the browser with its portal site.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
3 min read
Netscape Communications has launched a public beta test of Communicator 4.5, the latest version of its Internet software suite.

As previously reported by CNET NEWS.COM, the new Communicator comes with more features that integrate the browser with Netscape's newly refurbished Netcenter Internet gateway site. The new software perks include "Smart Browsing" technology, a beefed up Web email service, and more roaming capabilities, which allow telecommuters to access personalized features using different desktops.

The software suite also will include Netscape Messenger, an email client; Web-based word processor Netscape Composer; Netscape Calendar for enterprise and group scheduling; and Netscape AOL Instant Messenger, which is currently available on Netcenter.

In addition, Netscape will use software to automate the bug reporting process during the test period. The quality feedback software, produced by Full Circle Software, will give users the option to send in reports to engineering and quality assessment teams when a malfunction or error arises.

CNET Radio talks to Netscape's Julie Herendeen
A Netscape spokeswoman said that the automated process would eliminate a layer of people who previously had to read through newsgroups and online bug reporting systems to find feedback about software errors.

The release comes as Netscape is in the process of developing Communicator 5.0, which will be based on the Web development community's modification of the browser's source code. Netscape created Mozilla.org to guide the community effort to rally developers around the suite.

In addition, the new browser comes as Netscape increasingly focuses its efforts on beefing up Netcenter to become a major portal player on par with the Yahoos and Excites of the world.

One objective in the new software suite is to drive traffic to Netcenter by linking services from the software end to the portal.

"As Netscape aggressively builds Netcenter into a leading Internet portal site, we will continue to forge new partnerships with content and service providers and increasingly leverage our market-leading Netscape Communicator client software to greatly improve the Internet experience for consumers and business users," Mike Homer, general manager of Netcenter, said in a statement.

As reported earlier, Netscape's Smart Browsing consists of three elements that give additional short cuts to Web surfing. "Internet Keywords" allows users to type in common words or phrases that translate into URLs stored in a database. "What's Related" is a dynamic list of links to other Web sites relevant to the page viewed, and is powered by Alexa Internet. And "NetWatch" uses RSACi and SafeSurf Web site ratings systems to allow users to filter out content.

"Netscape Messenger" is the new application that will become Communicator 4.5's email client. Messenger will include features such as address books, message folders, and an application that transfers files from Eudora and Microsoft Outlook Express clients.

However, in the spirit of the cutthroat browser wars, Microsoft was quick to criticize the integration of browser and portal, saying it would focus solely on the browser technology.

"We won't make technology that will require you to have 'home.microsoft.com' as opposed to another start page," said a Microsoft spokesman.