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Netscape bugs Java

As Netscape races to deliver its Navigator 3.0 browser, the company admits it is fixing a bug that had developers fuming over compatibility problems with Java applets.

As Netscape Communications races to deliver its Navigator 3.0 browser by Monday, the company says it is fixing a bug in its Java software that had developers fuming over compatibility problems with Java applets.

The Java controversy first revealed itself in emotional postings by developers to Usenet discussion groups devoted to the Java language. The developers complained that in beta versions of Navigator 3.0, Netscape had modified its LiveConnect architecture, which allows Java applets, JavaScript, and other programs to communicate with each other. The changes caused applets that use LiveConnect to stop working.

According to a Netscape product manager, the applet compatibility problem was the result of a bug in beta versions of Navigator 3.0. The problem will be fixed in the final version that will ship Monday.

"It is categorically our plan to support the Java standard as Sun defines it," said Rick Fleischman, product manager for languages and tools at Netscape. "We would never consciously try to break an applet. That violates the whole spirit of Java."

Java developers will be happy to hear it.

"If you choose to break a huge amount of working code in gross defiance of the specification mere weeks before a final release, then you will deserve whatever horrible fate is foisted upon you," read a message by a Java programmer who posted to the Usenet newsgroup.

Sun Microsystems, which reviews all of the licensees of its Java technology to ensure compatibility, is examining the complaints to make sure Netscape hasn't made any changes to Java that would violate its licensing agreement.

"I have not had an opportunity to talk to our engineers about this," said George Paolini, director of communications at Sun's JavaSoft division. "At this stage, we are looking at it. We're extremely hopeful that it's a just a bug."