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Netscape previews Aurora

At the Seybold SF conference, Netscape?s Mike Homer says the company?s new technology makes upgrading to Windows 98 unnecessary.

SAN FRANCISCO--Angling to steal Microsoft's thunder, Netscape Communications today previewed new technology called Aurora designed to integrate a user's data into a single Webtop that houses information from the Internet, the desktop, email, push channels, personal bookmarks, and databases.

That's the same aim of the Active Desktop elements of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, slated to be released tomorrow at the same Seybold Seminars show where Netscape previewed Aurora today.

Netscape said Aurora would be available as a free component of the Netscape Communicator browser, which will be available in the first half of 1998. It is positioning Aurora as an alternative to unify users? desktops without upgrading to Windows 98 next year.

"We can save you the hassle of installing Active Desktop," said Netscape's Mike Homer, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "Since we expect to include Aurora as a free component in every Communicator in the future, anybody who doesn't want to be forced to upgrade to Windows 98 won't have to.

"Microsoft has thrown the desktop up for grabs, trying to force users to do costly upgrades," Homer added. "We think we can get them by doing something that's free."

Separately, Netscape announced an expansion of its "Netscape Everywhere" initiative to get its browser widely distributed, which involves adding more than 20 publishers that will include CD versions of Navigator in more than 23 million books and magazines around the world.

In today's demo, Netscape showed Aurora as a vertical strip on the right-hand side of a computer screen where users can organize their data from different formats into one area.

Aurora will take advantage of an emerging standard for metadata (information about how content is organized) called Resource Description Framework (RDF), which provides a single mechanism for organizing, describing, and navigating information on Web sites. RDF is built on XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language), the next-generation Web layout language.

Earlier this month, Netscape said it is working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to standardize RDF and has named more than 40 content providers planning to deploy RDF on their Internet sites. The W3C effort builds on a specification called Meta Content Framework (MCF), which was first introduced by Apple Computer in September 1996.

Homer bridled at a question on whether Microsoft would, as it claims, grab 50 percent of the Web browser market with its new IE 4.0.

"Microsoft makes a growth market out of forward predictions in markets where they are behind," Homer said. "Microsoft has nothing to lose from being so far behind and saying it's going to get better."

Since Microsoft?s go into the browser market in August 1995, Homer said, Netscape's browser market share has shrunk from 80 to 72 percent.

"I think we will gain share," he predicted.